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Baring Secrets Online
A selection of postcards taken from the Web site www.postsecret.com.

Postcards submitted to the website postsecret.com.

Life is full of secrets. And now, so is the Web.

Online confessional sites are brimming with the most intimate and awkward details of human comedy and tragedy. Human life. The posts are anonymous. Nakedly revealing. And apparently addictive for readers and posters alike.

“I love you, but I hate your tattoos.” … “Today my husband found the box my morning-after pill came in. He had a vasectomy ten years ago.”

This hour, On Point: We’ll talk with the founder of postsecret.com, the moderator of fmylife.com, and a clinical psychologist about naked human secrets, online.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Guests:

Frank Warren, founder and curator of PostSecret. He started it as a community art project in Nov. 2004. Since then, he’s received nearly half a million anonymous postcards with secret confessions. He posts a weekly selection at postsecret.com, which gets over a million viewers per month. He’s also compiled four bestselling PostSecret books; his fifth, out this fall, is PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God.

Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self and professor of the social studies of science and technology.  She’s author of “Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet” (1995). Her new book is “Simulation and Its Discontents.”

Alan Holding, site moderator for FMyLife.com, which gets 1.7 million visitors per day.  Their new book, out yesterday, is “FMyLife: It’s Funny, It’s True, Except When it Happens to You.”

Watch the video trailer for PostSecret:

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Sam E.

    I find that my friends do not post secrets in the sense that they write about things that they were hiding from the public but my female friends in particular do post what I suppose could be considered emotional secrets in that they are much more willing to share intense emotion than they would be in person.

  • Pam

    I was very curious to read this book when it first came out. Then, after reading a number of the postcards, I got very depressed and stopped reading. I get a very empty feeling now when I come across any of these messages and just cannot read them any more. Fascinating idea, but a very sad result.

  • Olivia

    My favorite post secrets are the ones about vigilante justice. Like the Starbucks decaff example, and like one from an IRS employee: “I ‘accidentally’ lose tax returns of people who make over $400,000/year but donate $0″

  • Anne

    I have always wanted to be able to share that the real reason I divorced my husband is that I discovered he was a porn addicted cross dresser. My children don’t know, neither does anyone else.

  • Mason

    Sadly there’s also alot of misandry on postsecret.com; Just observe the responses to the ‘head’ secret that went up last sunday.

    Just sayin’.

  • Joe Dullea

    My two older kids go to Boston Latin School.
    In this year’s last edition of the school paper, they published the results of a Senior Survey.

    The Senior Survey contains sections such as “Best Memory,” “Worst Memory,” “Things I’m Glad I Did,” “Things I’m Glad I Didn’t Do,” etc.

    This is confessional, humorous, touching, heart-rending, uplifting; it is poetry and I could not stop reading it.

    I don’t know if all high schools do this, but it is wonderful and you should look at it if you get a chance.

  • Helmut Macci

    To curtail my wife’s spending habits, I told her that we lost everything in the Wall St crash and are in danger of foreclosure. I faked depression and even saw a Dr. It worked so well that her parents gifted us $130,000 for the supposed purpose of saving our home.

    In fact my nest egg from the dot com days is still worth over $1.5M.

  • Joe Kesselman

    The serious problem with these sites, and with Facebook and other semi-anonymous conversations, is that people may receive support/encouragement for beliefs which are completely delusional, which is the last thing those individuals need.

    Amateurs — including myself, obviously — are simply not equipped to handle the find line between “I understand how you feel” and “you’re right to feel that way.”

  • Kerrie

    My question is for Frank – I wonder if he worries about possible legal implications of this site. For example, what if an individual threatens suicide or confesses they are hurting a child… what is the legal/ethical/moral responsibility of not only Frank but of the readers/commentors?

  • Elizabeth

    I occasionally read Tru Mom Confessions. As a young and sometimes overwhelmed mother, I find it very reassuring that there are other moms out there who sometimes feel frustrated, ambivalent, bored, etc. with motherhood. This kind of forum allows mothers to share what it really feels like to be a mom and buck the oppressive cultural norms of intensive mothering. I feel like people share things on the site that would be difficult to share in person with other mothers because the pressure to conform can be so strong.

  • Erin Saunders

    Here’s what I think differentiates PostSecret et al from the exhibitionism of, say, reality TV: there’s a difference between confession and unsolicited full disclosure.

    I find myself surrounded by friends, strangers, and acquaintances who are all too willing to share their innermost secrets face-to-face, with no concern as to what effect it has on the listener or the other parties in those secrets.

    Going on Dr. Phil with one’s marital problems, or bending a coworker’s ear with one’s medical history, demands a lot of everyone else involved. If I mail a postcard anonymously for publication online, there’s no body count.

  • Gwen Rodgerson

    Have you ever heard of the website onesentence.org? True life stories told in one sentence. To me, it is sort of a combination of fmylife and postsecret. It’s a wonderful website that goes along with the two that are speaking today. Thank you so much Frank Warren and Alan Holding for your 2 wonderful websites!

  • http://susanrichardsart.com Susan Hallstein

    In reference to the site being an art project: The writer Banville said “all art is scar tissue.”. so these secrets are, in part, the natural process of healing. Good art is frequently a confessional. This is what I see, this is what I know, this is who I am..It’s a search for identity and acceptence of ourselves and others.. warts and all.

  • juan

    textsfromlastnight.com

  • Betsy

    For a brief time, I read “True Mom Confessions” and found many of the stories to be very, very sad and depressing – there are really a lot of unhappy people out there.

  • Beth

    You people need therapy! Are you all trying to identify with your teenage kids? The caller who said we’re mistaken if we think this is real therapy is right–it’s mainly entertainment — it’s FAUX connecting, minus the tools or willingness to do the “real work” to address an issue.
    I think you’re all afraid to say anything negative about this phenom, lest you sound as if you’re “old” or out of touch! P.S. Sharing shame-based secrets has been common in 12-step programs for years, nothing new.

  • Johnny

    Re: Beth from above (no pun intended)
    Social abstraction aside, who are you to criticize people’s differing approaches. Apparently the 12 step program you attended did little to help, hence the shortsighted post to the website of A RADIO SHOW!!!
    Good luck and don’t give up…

  • Dacia

    Like all things internet, I think that if the expressions stay relatively benign, there is no danger. However, whenever there are few limits, there are always people who take it to an unhealthy level. Of course at some point, someone (whether joking or not) will admit to a bad crime.

    That said, I also believe that we are still a nation (USA) largely influenced to communicate about how great life is. In fact, unless you’re a comedian, one is not supposed to have a ‘negative’ outlook on anything – it suggests that the person is somehow not successful.

    Confessions are sort of like prayers. I don’t think there’s anything wrong or bad about airing the laundry in this way. Great outlet. Hopefully it won’t get out of hand.

  • june10

    My secret is: I kind of hate that woman who is arguing that Postsecret is bad. Another person who doesn’t get art. And I kind of hate that Tom isn’t putting her in her place more. SO UPTIGHT, lady.

    I don’t like dialogue as much as I think I should.

    But I still listen to this show all the time because it’s some of the most interesting, or at least stimulating, conversation I hear.

    Sometimes the amount of NPR I listen to makes me think I really may be less sexy than I think I am.

  • Willa

    I don’t think post secret or f my life are bad, but I do know people who look at those at least five times a day, and not to empathise with people, but to make themselves feel better by hearing other people’s problems. That kind of thing just makes me really sad to hear about.
    I think that people should find other ways to make themselves feel better about a secret they are keeping or about their own lives without having to hear about other people problems and say ‘they are so much worse off then me.’

  • Amy Seitz

    I recently listened to an article on npr.org about how most people are ‘hooking up’ instead of dating. i can’t help but wonder if our decreased ability to open up to our lovers and begin relationships is finding an outlet on the internet in an anonymous way.

  • shan

    check this out, like FML, but positive

    http://www.givesmehope.com/

  • albert

    In the seattle weekly paper The Stranger, there has been a column called ‘I anonymous’ for years (I remember reading it in the late 90s when I was attending college there). It is exactly like these web confession and secret sharing sites, the editors select an anonymous note from the readers every week and post it in the paper. I used to read it for laugh, but sometimes you come across something a little disturbing, that is when I realized my life really wasn’t as screwed some others.

  • Miceal

    There is a long folklore tradition of secret telling to inanimate objects such as in ‘The King with Horse’s Ears’. In this fable, the teller received great relief by whispering the sworn secret to a tree; eventually the secret was revealed in an interesting way, but the secret teler was forgiven. Internet secret telling seems to have similarilities, just a little faster than in days of yore.

  • Keith Al in St. Louis

    I’m a Buddhist-Humanist. And yet my “dark side” was confirmed yesterday as I found myself getting excited reading about a successful extremist’s suicide martyrdom. The suicide confirmed my cynicism, a part of me that I really don’t like, want to deny. Maybe I need psych help but am currently “between jobs”, i.e., can’t afford it.

  • g green

    As I listened to this program a couple of weeks ago, my interest was piqued. I thought, perhaps FML was a forum where I could vent the fact that my husband of 34 years,(upon discovery, a year ago this August) ended a five month affair he was having with a woman that he stopped dating nearly 38 years ago, because “she was crazier than a loon,” (his words not mine). She had been trying to get even with me for “Stealing him” ever since we married… going so far as to name her first child, after our daughter. Not only did she actually send him 1983 text messages in a 3 week period, but she traveled down from NJ to VA to pursue the affair while two of our five children and I were attending Bible School and visiting one of the older children! Now I know my husband is not innocent, but… sigh… Well in spite of the infidelity, we have diligently been working towards rebuilding our marriage, and this past anniversary(35) my husband gave me a beautiful re-engagement ring, and asked if I would re-marry him. The ring and the sentiment meant more than one might imagine. I posted the photos to my Facebook account to share our joy with family and friends, where somehow Miss NJ saw them, and actually had my account disabled for posting offensive photos! They were photos of the rings on our hands for goodness sake! Life Gets Snarky…

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