PostSecret's Frank Warren gives a TED Talk

One of my favorite TED talks this year was PostSecret's Frank Warren. Over 500,000 people have sent him postcards with their secrets. I also interviewed Frank on video when I was at TED.

Frank Warren is the creator of The PostSecret Project, a collection of highly personal and artfully decorated postcards mailed anonymously from around the world, displaying the soulful secrets we never voice. Since November 2004, Warren has received more than 500,000 postcards, with secrets that run from sexual taboos and criminal activity to confessions of secret beliefs, hidden acts of kindness, shocking habits and fears. PostSecret is a safe and anonymous "place" where people can hear unheard voices and share untold stories.

Frank Warren: Half a million secrets


  1. I don’t like Frank Warren. He profits off of other people’s secrets and does nothing to maintain the HopeLine. The only good to come from him is the community of people looking for connection, but he does nothing other than exploit them.

  2. Yay!  Thanks Mark.  I’m seeing him tonight at URI – this is a nice appetizer.  

    Ms. Square, while you are welcome to your own opinions, I believe you are mistaken regarding Mr.Warren’s motives and actions. 

    1. I have called HopeLine based on Mr. Warren’s endorsement when I was about to jump off my roof. Blah blah, I have depression and issues, blah blah.. HopeLine kept me on hold for at least 45 mins and then disconnected me. I wish I was able to be a symbol for what a fake he is..

      Thank you for your opinion Sir Daddy (lol) bc you have no idea what he endorses, and I hope you never have to.

      1. I liked looking at the postcards at first (and I’ll admit I just got sucked into reading all the latest ones on the front page of the website), but got a bad feeling about the whole thing rather quickly. I agree that it seems like he’s being exploitative and not really doing much to help anyone.

        But I do think ultimately that the project is a positive one, and its existence is helpful to some people, whether they send in their own secret or just read others. 

        I don’t know that there’s much more he can really do to help anyone… it seems the whole point of the project is self-catharsis not a help line or therapy.

        Also… I’m not sure it’s fair to blame Warren and his project for the failure of an unrelated suicide help line just because he pointed you to it. I am of course sensitive to your situation and sorry about what happened… to have to put people calling a suicide help line on hold is awful.

        1. It (HopeLine) is not unrelated to Frank Warren if it’s on the end of each and every Sunday PostSecret update. And Frank Warren runs PostSeceret. Please tell me why I am wrong to think there is a correlation.

          The community created was the positive of PostSecret. Not a man that sells books off of them.

          1. Why are you so embittered? How is he a fake? What do *you* do to help people that gives you the right to be so critical? I do appreciate you have issues, but is Frank Warren really the cause?

            I enjoyed reading the secrets. Creating the site is his contribution. He doesn’t exploit anyone – all the contributions are voluntary (and ad free I noticed), and presumably people buy his books because the want to read them (i.e they have value).

          2. HENG: I can’t reply to your comment directly:

            First of all, this article is not about me, but if  you would like to have a discussion of what I do to advocate mental illness awareness, I would welcome that conversation. It might open your eyes a bit.

            Frank Warren is the name behind PostSecret. Frank Warren is the person making money off of the books filled with stranger’s secrets that you enjoy so much. And Frank Warren is the one getting paid to show those secrets on a big screen. But he can’t maintain the HopeLine that he advocates on his websites. THAT is my problem.

            That call is the hardest to make. To have it fail is dangerous and devastating.  

      2. Ms. Square,

        You are mistaken in thinking I have no understanding of clinical depression, or in thinking I have no idea what Mr. Warren endorses.  

        I’m sorry for your awful experience with HopeLine – it sounds like the worst kind of bad joke, and I’m sorry you were on the receiving end. Let me ask you, though: do you typically blame the waiter for the kitchen’s mistake, or the friend who’d recommended the restaurant, or the maitre d’?

        Mr. Warren himself volunteers at a suicide prevention hotline. He lost his best friend to suicide (before his eyes) and family members, too. He has donated tens of thousands of dollars to similar causes.  He earns no money from the web site – no ads, and it is his full-time work – and encourages others to volunteer to help those in need.  The community he has engendered has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to suicide prevention, and has saved lives. If he earns money from the books and the lecture circuit, it is only because others are buying those books and tickets. Which they do, because they find the story he has to tell compelling. All those secrets were made public by the respective writers – no confidences were broken, nor are all the secrets about someone’s misery.

        And while I have been granted no honours, and have never claimed any title, it would be “Sir zulu” if I had.

        You seem very bitter. Lashing out and insulting those who disagree with you is a great way to keep people away.  Have a nicer day today.

        1. If a person is making millions off of people’s secrets/mental illness, then he should maintain the HopeLine he endorses, period. Especially if he witnessed his best friend’s death.

          It’s quite simple. I don’t see why it’s even an argument.

          Make millions off of people’s darkest thoughts, maintain the suicde line you endorse. Period. Once again, ESPECIALLY, if you have personal experience with the issue.

          Call me whatever you want and personally attack me, I don’t care. Simple fact: Frank Warren profits off of other’s people’s secrets and mental illness and does nothing to help in return. The community of people looking for connection is the only positive.

          1. I’m not sure where you get your information, but he is not making “millions”.

            Nor did I personally attack you or call you names.

            I’ve already noted the ways in which I think he has helped the world and made it a better place to be in. If nothing else, in creating PostSecret, he’s raised awareness of suicide prevention and mental illness worldwide. How is this a bad thing?

            I disagree with your assertion of him making profits from other’s mental illness, and your assertion of his direct responsibility for a service he endorses. Are you aware that he includes a secret of his own in each of his books?  Again, each of these secrets has been made public by its respective holder. Who is being exploited? 

            Have a great day. Bye now.

  3. I think the problem is that while PostSecret as an art project — or a social science experiment– is a great idea, that there has been an increasing proportion of Frank Warren of talking about Frank Warren, and that he is now being paid to take his show on the road. 

    He had one great idea — and has exploited it to the fullest. Would I have enjoyed Post Secret as much if the creator/author had been anonymous or invisible ? Yes. Do I enjoy Post Secret less, now that that there is more content on the site about Frank Warren, and how to get tickets to his production, and all the warm fuzzy testimonials from people who went ? Yes.

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