Frank Warren remembers feeling lost and alone as a high school and college student. Now at age 50 he said he understands many of the challenges and heartaches facing people of all ages, but especially young people, through the weekly confessions he receives in his popular PostSecret blog.
Warren will share the stories behind the secrets in PostSecret Live, on Tuesday, March 10, at 7:00 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center at Rockwell Hall.
Buffalo State is one of numerous colleges on a tour Warren is making this spring.
“For me, speaking to young people is really speaking to the heart of the community at PostSecret,” said Warren in a recent telephone interview. “Young people are in a place in life where they are struggling with what is true, what the world is all about, and what they are all about.”
A multimedia event, PostSecret Live will include stories, songs, graphics and animation, and an opportunity for audience members to share their secrets.
“This is the best part,” said Warren. “You never know what you’ll hear. It’s a safe place in which people share things they’ve never said before and may never say again.”
A former entrepreneur who operated a business retrieving medical information for lawyers, Warren began PostSecret as a community art project in 2004 by inviting people to mail secrets anonymously on homemade postcards to his home in Germantown, Maryland. In the ensuing decade, he has received more than 1 million secrets on artfully designed cards that range from the humorous to the tragic. Every Sunday Warren posts his 10 favorites on PostSecret.com. Often the secrets intertwine with one another or follow a theme.
“Secrets are like songs or poetry,” Warren said. “They express hope, fun, fear, sexual desire, and love. They touch on every human emotion.”
PostSecret has no paid advertising. Warren makes his living from his public appearances and royalties from his six PostSecret books, all of which have reached the New York Times Best Sellers list.
“I think this is why so many people trust me,” he said. “PostSecret has a higher purpose to me than just being a moneymaker, and I treat people’s secrets with respect and dignity.”
The website has received more than 700 million hits, three Webby Awards for “Best Blog on the Internet,” and an award from the National Mental Health Association. In 2013, Warren was invited to the White House to share his thoughts on mental wellness.
Because the secrets sometimes reveal self-harm ideation or the pain of a loved one's suicide, PostSecret has raised more than $1 million for suicide prevention in the United States.
“Suicide is America’s secret,” said Warren, who lost a friend and a family member to suicide and struggled with depression himself. “It is still stigmatized, which exacerbates the problem.”
Along with the Performing Arts Center at Rockwell Hall, the Buffalo State Counseling Center, the School of the Professions as a part Year of the Innovator, and Student Life are sponsoring Warren’s visit to campus.
“We are delighted Frank Warren is coming. I hope his talk will help in our push for awareness and destigmatization of mental illness,” said Joan McCool, director of the Counseling Center, who noted that the PostSecret performance highlights this year’s celebration of Mental Health Awareness Week.
Through the PostSecret project, Warren said he has expanded his understanding and acceptance of human behavior.
“I have more empathy for people,” he said. “The most popular secret I receive reveals a longing for someone to tell his or her secret to. We are an insufficient substitute.”
However, Warren knows that by simply sending secrets out into the world, secrets buried for years or never previously acknowledged, people experience catharsis. He hears this time and time again.
“There are two kinds of secrets: secrets we keep from others and secrets we hide from ourselves,” he said. “Sometimes people think we are alone with our secrets. I know the truth. We aren’t. There is always someone else who understands.”
Tickets to PostSecret Live are $20 for the general public, $10 for Buffalo State faculty and staff; and $5 for Buffalo State students, one per ID. Discounted tickets can only be purchased at the Rockwell Hall Box Office. All others may be purchased by phone at (716) 878-3005 or online.
Afterward, Warren will sign copies of his newest book, The World of PostSecret, which will be available for purchase from Barnes & Noble at Buffalo State.
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