On January 1st, 2005 Frank Warren created PostSecret.com. Each week people anonymously send in one-sided homemade postcards with secrets on them. Every Sunday Warren updates the PostSecret blog with twenty new secrets. Eight years later the website has spread like wild fire.
One year ago, 2009 Knox graduate, Madeline Weiland began the Knox Postsecret group on Facebook. She was inspired to create the group after her sister’s high school, Illinois Math and Science Academy, made one. Weiland thought it would be an interesting social experiment. The group has six hundred and forty three members, and counting, with seven hundred and eight posted secrets.
Professor of psychology, Frank McAndrew does believe there is a difference between Knox PostSecret and the real PostSecret. He believes that it if everyone knew everyone, then there would be just as much gossip on the real PostSecret. People can also use this information for the politics of friendships. They can tell who gets along, and who doesn’t then use it to judge whom to become friends with.
As for the fascination with the secrets, this is what Professor McAndrew said, “the more you know about someone…the more you want to know.” People use this information to make moral judgments about someone. “People then use this information to tell how trustworthy someone is,” he said, “if they are an ally or enemy.”
Since Knox is such a small college, many of the secrets were about Knox or the people that attend. This is where a lot of the controversy comes from. “I don’t think I necessarily intended for all the secrets to be about Knox, just more like a place where Knox students could send secrets and know they would be posted somewhere, unlike sending things to the real PostSecret and hoping you are one of the lucky 20 every week,” Weiland said. The group isn’t meant as a center for gossip, though it quickly went that route.
Weiland was personally affected by a secret. “At one point I was threatened with a “recruitment violation” because somebody sent in a secret about being dissatisfied with her membership in a sorority, and because I was a member of a different sorority, somebody felt I was personally attacking the other group by allowing the secret to be posted,” Weiland said.
When it comes to censorship Weiland said she only blocked two people from the group due to posting hateful secrets or exposing secret senders. As an administrator she censored very few secrets. “Unless they were blatantly attacking an individual or very obviously fake I posted just about everything,” Weiland admitted.
One of the biggest issues involving Knox PostSecret was that anyone could comment on the posted secrets. “I was really conflicted about comments in the beginning, and I received several complaints asking that they be disabled or deleted,” Weiland said. Due to Facebook settings she was unable to disable the comments. Since Weiland was the administrator of the group, she was receiving Facebook notifications in her Knox e-mail. It became overwhelming. Weiland asked the group to stop commenting, but it was clear the students wanted to be able to comment. Once Weiland established an anonymous administrator, the comments were allowed to continue being posted. Now this person has a separate e-mail for the comments posted on Knox PostSecret.
Recent Knox graduate Sam Jarvis comments on every secret submitted. He doesn’t really feel bad, though, because he doesn’t think many of the secrets are real. “No hard feelings,” Jarvis said.
Junior Amelia Garcia “checks the site frequently” because no one knows when the group is going to be updated. She does not believe that they are all true, yet she knows that some are. “You can just tell some secrets are heartfelt and real,” she said. She believes that there is the aspect of not knowing if they are real or fact, which is why many students keep coming back.