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What We Talk About When We Talk About PostSecret

Frank Warren’s PostSecret project in a post-“Secret” world.

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

For more than 10 years, strangers from around the world have been sending their secrets to a suburban home in Germantown, Maryland, scribbled or pasted onto anonymous postcards. Over time, the mailbox at 13345 Copper Ridge Road has held not only secrets but wedding bands, engagement rings, and razor blades: objects taped to cards and sent away as untraceable secrets themselves.

And every Sunday, Frank Warren — the founder of PostSecret and keeper of the mailbox — has dutifully scanned and posted a handful of these postcards to his lo-fi WordPress site, What began as a personal art project has become an international community, now entering its second decade.

Creative Commons / Via Flickr: anabananasplit

There are two secrets that Warren has seen hundred of times. The first is “I pee in the shower.” The second?

“I see this secret every time I go to my mailbox. I always see it expressed a different way,” Warren said in an interview with BuzzFeed. “It's basically a story about trying to find that one person who you can tell all your secrets to. There's that common thread, that search for intimacy, that search for the one person we can be our whole and true selves with.”

Now, of course, there's an app for that. In fact, there are several. But the world is a markedly different place today than it was a decade ago, when Warren began the PostSecret project. It was 2004: there was no Twitter, there was no Instagram, and Facebook had just launched out of Mark Zuckerberg's dorm room. The iPhone didn't exist. Edward Snowden was 21.

Today's top secret-sharing apps — Whisper, Secret, and Yik Yak — are rumored to be valued at a combined total of well over $ 400 million. But before the economy of secrets boomed to its current size, there was Frank Warren: a man with a mailbox in Germantown, Maryland. In 2004, Warren started an art project called PostSecret, calling for strangers to send him postcards with their anonymous secrets. He hoped to receive 365. To date, he has received more than a million from around the world.

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