Bless Me, Blog, for I've Sinned
By SARAH BOXER
May 31, 2005
Online confessors are like flashers. They exhibit themselves
anonymously and publicly, with little consideration for you, the
audience. Browse some of the confessionals on the Web: grouphug.us
 (a simple log), notproud.com  (organized by deadly sin) or
dailyconfession.com  (where you can barely find the confessions
for all the promotional stuff). You can see for yourself.
One online confessional, though, breaks the mold. At PostSecret,
found at postsecret.blogspot.com , the confessions are
consistently engaging, original and well told. How come? The Web site
gives people simple instructions. Mail your secret anonymously on one
side of a 4-by-6-inch postcard that you make yourself. That one
constraint is a great sieve. It strains out lazy, impulsive confessors.
For PostSecret, you write, type or paste your secret on a postcard,
and then, if you want, decorate the card with drawings or
photographs. Next the stamp and then the mailbox. Yes, it's work to
confess. And it should be, if only for the sake of the person who
might be listening.
One message says: "I lied" under the word "oath." Another says, "I
deleted the pope's funeral unwatched off my TiVO to make room for an
episode of 'Survivor.' " The postcard picture - a split image, top
half funeral, bottom half 'Survivor' - captures the moment of sin.
Some secrets cannot be separated from the cards they're on. One sad
little postcard has a lineup of seven 3-cent stamps, each with a
picture of a Conestoga wagon on it, plus one 2-cent stamp of a
locomotive: "I found these stamps as a child, and I have been waiting
all my life to have someone to send them to. I never did have someone."
The following typed message was pasted onto a card made out of a $50
parking ticket: "I got a parking citation and so did the car next to
me. I replaced the ticket on the car next to me with mine. My ticket
got paid. And the one I took? I mailed it to PostSecret." It isn't so
much a confession as a live performance of sin.
PostSecret is simple to navigate. You scroll down to read one
postcard after another. There's little else on the site. O.K., you
will occasionally run into little self-congratulatory landmarks:
announcements that PostSecret will be onstage in Melbourne,
Australia, newspaper clippings from all over the world, scores of
compliments from readers. But basically it's all secrets.
And the secrets are regularly refreshed. Each Sunday, Frank, the
keeper of the secrets, posts a new batch straight from his mailbox in
Germantown, Md., and removes some old ones from the site. One virtue
of the resulting chronological lineup is that you can look for
patterns emerging, certain kinds of confessions clumping together.
And clump they do.
For instance, the most recent confessions tend to be the most
graphically and ethically hip. They look like the work of Barbara
Kruger, Damien Hirst or Sophie Calle. "I want to be anorexic," says
one card with a photo of a skeletal woman, "but I can't stop eating."
And for some reason many of the secrets posted on May 8 follow a
certain form, a confession followed by a coda with a dash more guilt:
"I don't care about recycling. (But I pretend I do.)" "I had sex with
strangers for money. And I liked it." "I hate loving families...
Because I don't have one."
One odd thing about PostSecret is that there's a real disconnection
between what the confessions are and what the readers think they are.
One reader from Texas wrote, "Thank you so much for building a window
into so many souls, even if it only shines light on the darkest
part." A reader in Australia wrote: "Each is a silent prayer of hope,
love, fear, joy, pain, sorrow, guilt, happiness, hatred, confidence,
strength, weakness and a million other things that we all share as
human beings... there is no fakeness here."
No fakeness? Oh, but there is. And it is the fakeness, the artifice
and the performance that make this confessional worth peeking at. The
secret sharers here aren't mindless flashers but practiced strippers.
They don't want to get rid of their secrets. They love them. They
arrange them. They tend them. They turn them into fetishes. And
that's the secret of PostSecret. It isn't really a true confessional
after all. It is a piece of collaborative art.