Post Secret – a virtual community?

PostSecretFor the last year or so, every Sunday I go to to see the secrets that have been posted to the website. The premise for the site is that people all over the world make homemade postcards with their anonymous secrets posted on the back, and mail them to Frank. Frank then posts then to the blog site. Also, connected to the blog site, is the Post Secret Community, which is an online chat room where people can discuss everything from this weeks secrets to upcoming or past Post Secret Events.The secrets have even made it into several collections of books. The program is also an advocate for suicide prevention. Part of the belief system behind the program is that letting out secrets, letting out pain, having a venue for someone to listen to you can help is one way to help prevent self-inflicted harm from happening. Ever Sunday posts also has a link to the International Suicide Prevention Wiki. I have also seen people email Frank, asking for more information on a particular sender, trying to reach out on a more personal basis that just posting encouraging messages to the chat room or Wiki site. Of course, the secrets posted for each week are not all dark, some are simply silly or funny, but perhaps still not content that you would want to post on your Facebook wall. You can also follow Post Secret on other social media, such as Twitter and Instagram.

The blog, the chat room, the wiki, the social media sites all make Post Secret a great virtual community, one that people can become invested in. But there is also this tangible, non-digital part of the Post Secret experience. The postcards are handmade and mailed in,there are the books you can buy, and there are also the Post Secret tours, where Frank goes all around the world talking about the program, sharing secrets, and also inviting the audience members to the same. Here people are no longer hiding behind anonymous postcards, but are speaking to auditoriums full of people. But I have read several accounts posted on the blog that the sense of community is so strong at these talks, that people were able to share things they otherwise would never have. Some people come alone, some people in groups, but the community that they describe is something that started on an online forum. However, Post Secret is one example about how the digital and our “real” lives, are not separate entities and how sometimes digital things can still be emotionally tangible. So does that make it a virtual community, or perhaps, simply just a community?

-image is from the PostSecret blog from March 3, 2013