Collector of secrets advocates mutual support among peers

Jody Serrano

PostSecret creator Frank Warren said one of his favorite secrets came in the form of a bag of coffee. A note on it said “where I work, they don’t keep inventory so please enjoy our finest roast.”

In November 2004, Warren printed more than 3,000 blank postcards and walked around asking people in his town to anonymously contribute a secret to a group art project.

“I told them ‘My name is Frank and I collect secrets,’” Warren said. “You could reveal anything as long as it was true and you’ve never told it to anyone before.”

Warren spoke to a group of more than 300 people at the Student Activities Center on Monday night as a part of the University’s Distinguished Lecture Series, a series that features high-profile speakers throughout the year for free. Warren said he hoped his lecture lets students know that no matter what happens they are not alone.

Warren said people often find comfort in seeing others have the same problem.

“Sometimes the only person [people] can trust is one who has felt the pain and demons in their bones,” Warren said.

To date, Warren has acquired more than half a million secrets, published four books and expanded PostSecret to include an online community and an iPhone application. PostSecret fans can send Warren their secrets on a decorated postcard or post them online.

In a one-on-one interview with The Daily Texan, Warren said he liked speaking at college campuses because young people are more aware of PostSecret and more interested in being true to themselves.

“They’re not vetted to an identity,” he said.

Warren also revealed he posted his own secrets on PostSecret and spent a lot of time on the PostSecret app. During the interview, Warren opened up the app and posted a response to a person waiting to be admitted in. He also said he put a secret in every one of his published books.

Warren said there were two types of secrets in the world: secrets you keep from other people and secrets you keep from yourself.

“The longer you keep a secret, the more challenging it is to share it,” Warren said. “The hardest secrets come from other people and can be heartbreaking as well as healing.”

DLS committee chair Emily Johnson said although Warren had already spoken at UT in 2007, the committee felt it was the right time to expose Warren to a new audience. She said Warren’s message was one students really respond to.

“The message is ‘you’re not alone and you can find comfort in the fact that someone else might have the same problem you are,’” Johnson said. “We’re all people, and we all have problems.”

Biomedical engineering freshman Heather Bolton was one of the first in line to see Warren and said she used to read the PostSecret books in Barnes & Noble with her friends and put her own secrets in the books for other people to find.

“I go to Barnes & Noble to check and see if someone put a secret in a book,” Bolton said. “I remember finding one that said ‘I really like you’ on scratch pieces of paper.”

Bolton said she has never sent a postcard to PostSecret but always tries to figure out which ones her friends send in. She said she wanted to learn how to keep a secret before she sent one to Warren.

Near the end of his discussion Warren urged audience members to push through the tough times in their lives and support people who may be suffering personal problems that could lead to self-harm.

“Looking back on my life, I can see how each one of those events brought me to this place, to this moment, sharing this story,” Warren said.

Printed on Tuesday, November 15, 2011 as: PostSecret creator goes public