Quenching Our Thirst: PostSecret at the Akron Civic

by Josy Jones



Human interaction is not considered a basic human need. Human connectivity doesn’t fit neatly into the food, shelter or clothing categories. Metaphorically, one could say that human interaction quenches our thirst for relationships or it feeds our cravings for vulnerability. Still, the argument remains: human survival is not dependent on connecting to one another. However, anyone who believes this probably hasn’t experienced the powerful impact of “PostSecret,” an “art project” that proves the desire for human connection is a need we have not met.

“PostSecret,” brainchild of Frank Warren, is described as “an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.” It sounds simple. That’s because it is.

Your secret can be about anything; regret, fear, betrayal or even a childhood humiliation. There are rules, of course. Your secret must be true and it must be something you’ve never shared with anyone else, but that’s it. It’s incredibly simple, and yet since 2004, people have been mailing their secrets to someone they barely know. Why would anyone do that? They do it because they need to.

“PostSecret” has evolved. It was once merely a postage exchange. Now, people send random items like flip flops, rings and even pictures with their secrets written on them. It has been an exhibit, it has been an app, has helped raise money for suicide prevention, it has transformed into an online community and even into a live, touring show.

The Akron Civic Theatre brought “PostSecret” to Akron for an unforgettable night. Three actors, one musician, voiceovers, an animated backdrop and countless secrets created a gripping experience that touched everyone in the room.

The most common secret written is some variation of “I pee in the shower.” Luckily, the second most common secret isn’t “I pee in public pools.” The second most common secret is “I wish I had someone to tell my secrets to.” Those two secrets seem vastly different, but they are a great base for understanding the show. Secrets like “I like to pee in snowballs before I throw them at my friends” and “I like to eat my toenails” coexist next to “His temper is so scary, I’ve lost all of my opinions” and an anonymous confession of a person’s fear that he or she may have a mental illness. It was both funny and sad, infuriating and hopeful. It was complex and undeniably human.

The cast of PostSecret walked us through its evolution and the connections it has been able to cultivate. They reminded us along the way that our secrets do not live alone. In fact, confessing our secrets has the power to connect us, change the course of our lives and can serve as a call to action.

There was a particularly moving confession of a woman who told her child that Santa Claus did not exist. This confession elicited a response from another woman who wished she’d been brave enough to tell her own son the truth of Saint Nick. This mother was unable to work the amount of hours she needed due to a back injury and was unable to get her son the things he wanted for Christmas. The PostSecret community helped her raise the money she needed so that her son wouldn’t go without.

Another mother had purchased the PostSecret book and her child, without any influence from the mother, read the book and confessed to sexual abuse from her father. The mother was then able to prosecute, move away and protect her children. They are now safe all because of a book of secrets.

Then, the cast gave the audience a chance to participate in the show. Akronites entered their secrets to be told anonymously to the other attendees. In the audience, there was a 50 year old virgin, swingers, a wife afraid to tell her husband of her 40,000 worth of credit card debt, a rape victim and even a person who felt responsible for someone else’s overdose. PostSecret is the harbinger of release for those needing someone to tell their secrets to. Even in Akron, we are undeniably human and ready to release the secrets we have been holding.

Around the room, countless audience members were in tears during the show. Being human has many sad, low moments. Nevertheless, they exist alongside joy and triumph. PostSecret is a reminder that no matter how lonely you think you are, your secrets ring true for someone else. You are not alone. We are connected by our humanity; the good and the bad. PostSecret is a treat, a reminder that although we are in an age when we are drifting steadily apart, when our differences are more pronounced than ever, we are more similar than we think. We are human and we crave human connections. The second most common secret is the desire to have someone to tell secrets to. Thank you PostSecret for letting Akron share its secrets with you.

Follow PostSecret on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook: @PostSecret

Or visit the website at postsecret.com.

(Images courtesy of PostSecret.)


Josy is a semi-antisocial coffee drinker, whose hobbies include avoiding small talk and hoarding plants.