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The Hebrew for secret means ‘come closer’. In a world where the average person’s biggest commitment is buying a complete album on iTunes, coming closer to one another and sharing secrets seems a big ask. PostSecret (www.postscret.com) is an online community of secret sharers. A global connection started by one American who invited most of Washington to anonymously mail him their secrets on a postcard. Almost a decade later I saw him give a talk in Hamer Hall, Melbourne.
Like many, I grew up with PostSecret; checking it every Sunday. Few can specifically remember how they were introduced to the site or how they stumbled across it. It is just a part of my internet routine the same as email or Facebook. The PostSecret talk brought home the innate truth which every week PostSecret.com silently teaches; nothing is ever as bad as it seems. There is no worst secret, there is nothing that cannot be shared. There are only the walls of words and emotions we build around ourselves to keep the secrets within.
Once at our seats we were greeted by a blank postcard on which was written ‘I invite you to share a secret…’. The atmosphere electric, a largely female audience made up of women of all ages. Some alone, some in groups but mainly pairs of friends together. Despite being a large venue it felt cosy, intimate even – granted that could just have been all the Oestrogen. Frank (the founder) eased us through a history of PostSecret, touching on the darker side of confession alleviated by poignant moments of bathos. We saw unseen postcards. Frank’s personal favourites. Postcards instantly recognisable from the site, and finally he shared a few of his own.
The ambiance in the hall truly radiated with warmth and a level of openness I have never witnessed. It transcended a Christian aesthetic to that of the purely human. This only increased with the handing over of the microphone to the audience. Sitting in the balcony with each voice coming from the stalls below broken into the darkness around, they remained anonymous. Their voices of truth, hidden within for so long, echoed out of the depths of the hall building to an apex of release. Secrets ranged from the ridiculous; “having grown up with PostSecret I was so scared of coming tonight in case you were going to turn out annoying as f***”. To the conflictingly beautiful “I have finally met the person I can tell all my secrets to. He’s married”. The audience responded openly and applauded every brave soul. Frank navigated the intimate to the hilarious masterfully. Never pausing too long on the dark or trivializing the light. Every secret was openly met and cherished.
To have been there is honestly the most human and connected experience I have ever had. I am glad I went. However I could not shirk the thoughts and phrases which did pop up occasionally; pity party and narcissism. There were a few in the audience whom I felt were too young and there was an obviously unbalanced demographic being represented. Was I to take from this that secrets and the act of sharing them was a purely feminine issue? I believe it is not. I do believe open and public secret sharing is arguably a female act. Its initiation however, the catalyst to all of this was instigated by a man. A man who now can never move house, the poor bugger.
By Rebecca Newton