GERMANTOWN, Md.--For millions of people, PostSecret is a weekly addiction--a place to read strangers' secrets as curated by one man: Frank Warren.
Each month, millions of people read PostSecret.com, and since the project's inception more than five years ago, the site has gotten nearly 345 million visits.
Warren sifts through the hundreds of secrets he receives each week from people all over the world, some on postcards, others in envelopes, and tries to find the 20 for the week that will best reflect the sentiments of the people who choose to open their hearts and send in a piece of themselves.
Each Saturday, Warren spends several hours organizing the secrets received that week in order to put up a new set of 20 on Sunday morning. On Saturday, June 26, as part of Road Trip 2010, CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman stopped in on Warren and his family and got a behind-the-scenes view of the production of Post Secret.
Each week, Warren takes down the previous week's secrets and posts 20 new ones. To choose the right ones, he will spend hours sitting on this couch, working on just the right selections. Here, just hours before posting his Sunday morning set of new secrets, Warren has laid out his best guess for the 20 he will put online. However, once the Saturday mail arrives, he'll likely substitute one or two.
For years, Frank Warren's mail--including the hundreds of daily secrets--was delivered by a woman named Kathy. But this May, a new mail carrier took over the PostSecret route: Sonia Warren. With a common last name but no family relationship, the two have started to develop a rapport, and on Saturday, they greeted each other as Sonia arrived with the mail.
Photo by: Maryanne Wright/United States Postal Service
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Because Warren has the secrets sent to his home, many fans of the PostSecret project stop by to visit the famous address. And while Warren and his family don't encourage the visits, they know that people will come. On the front of the mailbox are the letters "W," for Warren, and "PS" for PostSecret.
Though Warren maintains a huge archive of the secrets, he chooses from a much smaller collection for his weekly blog post. In addition to picking from the most appropriate secrets that arrive during the week, he also maintains a big stack--and some smaller ones--that he knows will someday make it onto the blog. From these, he chooses ones that complement secrets that have arrived during the week, or that echo a theme he wants to have in the week's post.
All those secrets are semipermanently covering this couch, in front of the table where he lays out the 20 for the week. And pretty much the only space not covered by secrets here is where Warren himself sits when organizing the post for the week.
Because many PostSecret fans visit the address that is so often shown on the blog, Warren leaves pens inside the mailbox so that those who stop by can leave messages on it. And many do, usually with heartfelt feelings of appreciation for Warren and the PostSecret project.
Since many of the secrets that are sent to Warren are handcrafted, it's not uncommon for small pieces of peoples' work to fall off once the secrets have arrived at Warren's house. So he collects those parts and keeps them in a box. Someday, he says, he may try to do something artistic with those parts.
A few weeks ago, someone sent Warren a secret saying he was going to commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Afterward, someone else formed a Facebook group to offer the person who sent the secret support, and more then 50,000 people joined the group. Some of those people later met on the Golden Gate Bridge itself to rally for hope.
Warren's chosen charity is Hopeline, which tries to help people get past suicidal feelings, and many secrets are based on the despondent feelings of those who send them.
Despite the rallying of support for the person who sent in the secret about jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge--the actual postcard is seen here--Warren said he doesn't know what happened to the person, who remains anonymous.
A secret that arrived Saturday responded to the one about the person saying they were going to jump from the Golden Gate Bridge, offering words of support: "Be Brave," the sender wrote over the image of the original card.
Warren likes to include in his Sunday blog post certain themes, or to make successive secrets connect to each other. For this Sunday, he's including two that are related based on the idea of writing secrets on origami. The lower one in this picture may make many people cry, as it contains an extremely emotional sentiment of a mother who lost her young child.
On any piece of mail that goes through the U.S. Postal Service, a small bar code is added to the bottom of the letter or card. Often, those bar codes cover up parts of the secrets that are sent to PostSecret, and while Warren sometimes leaves them on in a bid to make the cards more authentic, he also collects ones that have fallen off. Here, we see part of a collage of the bar codes that he has pasted onto his wall and ceiling.