Op Ed

Has PostSecret Jumped The Shark?

This Sunday, out of habit, I typed the PostSecret URL into my browser even though I knew what I would find there would be disappointing.  I removed PostSecret from my RSS feed a couple months ago, but the voyeur in me can’t help but crane my neck to see what is going on in other people’s sad lives.  What I found though was a mix of what is typical these days for PS – non-secrets and braggings of sociopaths.  There was a time when the PostSecret secrets were actual, well, secrets.  They were the things you don’t tell your best friend, your partner, or your therapist about.  They were the confessions that finally make you feel normal, because at least one other person has the same secret as you and you never knew that you weren’t alone because it’s information that no one ever makes public.  That was the beauty of PS and what made it so popular.  One didn’t even have to Google their darkest secret, hunched over the monitor and clearing their history every 5 seconds.  It was right there in their RSS feed: Hey, you’re not alone and you’re gonna be ok.

Maybe there is a finite number of secrets that can exist in the world, and that’s why it feels like some of the secrets are getting repetitive.  Most secrets can be placed in a category of the major themes in our lives: sex, relationships, religion, mental health (including substance abuse).  There are some repeat themes that I don’t get annoyed about seeing every week.  If someone who is suicidal or a gay teen who is struggling sees an “it’s going to be ok” secret at just the time they need to, then I think that’s amazing.  But that’s maybe one secret a week, so what about the rest of them?

More and more I feel like PostSecret could be renamed “People are Racist, Homphobic, Misogynistic, Cheating Liars And They Don’t Care” .com.

These are all  from this week’s PostSecret because there is no archive of past secrets.

So in the Horrible Person file we have:

Older-looking photo of people sitting in a park.  Handwritten text reads: Our guilty pleasure is telling racist jokes
We love being racist! I suspect they don't feel very guilty about it.
El Diablito Loteria card.  Handwritten text reads: My brother's mental illness is destroying my mother's life.  Even though I know it's not his fault, I sometimes with he would kill himself so my mother can live again.
I wish my brother would die! There would be no consequences at all!
Card with inspirational text in the background.  Foreground typed text reads: I steal money from our Girl Scout fund.
I steal from Girl Scouts - the very image of innocence and good! And I'm proud of it.

There was a time when it felt like PostSecret was one of the places where you could feel like maybe people were good.  Now I usually spend my Sundays weeping for the state of humanity.  And if people aren’t being outright horrible, they are living their lives like bad sitcoms or Gossip Girl.  By which I mean their secrets are all problems that could be solved if anyone was honest with each other or communicated.  Like, ever.

Light Switch that looks like a vagina.  Typed text reads: After 30 happy (really) years of marriage, I still don't know anything - not one thing - that actually turns my wife on.
Here's a tip for next time you're in the bedroom, chief: ASK!

The ones that annoy me the most are the ones that aren’t even really secrets.

Photograph of a bridge.  Typed text reads: She left me because I wouldn't admit I cheated on her.  I didn't.
Really? This is a secret? You're telling me you told no one this? Not your best friend? Huh.

What happened to PostSecret could probably have been anticipated.  It got a little too big for its britches and I think people feel like they have to be more “shocking” to get their secret published, hence the increase in Terrible Person secrets.  I already know that people are terrible, though.  That’s not a secret. At this point I think I would be more surprised to see a whole page of secrets about people being nice to one another, treating everyone respectfully, communicating clearly, and restoring everyone’s faith in humanity.  Call me when they start that website.

5 replies on “Has PostSecret Jumped The Shark?”

A little late to the article (gimme a break, I’m new)- I do absolutely agree with it. I myself have sent in a secret, and it wasn’t a doozey. It was something I haven’t told my husband, boss, or counselor. But it’s something I’m proud of and I get no credit; so I told the internet in hopes it would alleviate the need for a pat on the back for doing the right thing. It did. And I still do the thing I do that I’m proud of.
Yet, I stopped reading postsecret a while back. Mostly because it’s campy, trite, and makes me disappointed in the state of things. People are deficient in quality validation. Postsecret, with it’s anything goes attitude and seemingly altruistic intentions, have readers and senders-in hoping for that validation which cannot come from the internet.
Even as I write this, I question my own motives. But I’ll be okay. The reason why is my own secret. One I will keep and cherish and nurture until it blooms into the good person I know I can be.

This post articulated what I didn’t quite know I was feeling about PostSecret. Also, I wonder if a certain boredom with PostSecret’s secrets has to do with the way reality TV has gone in recent years. Now, people with secrets bare them for the world to see — Hoarders, Sister Wives, what have you. Of course, you could also argue that people have been doing this on Oprah for 25 years.

I agree with BeetleBlack that the “El Diablito” one is understandable, especially when you’re in a situation where you believe that the only end point of someone’s mental illness is suicide.

The Girl Scouts one is just boring. You’re a thief. Congratulations.

I can understand why the “El Diablito” one was put on there — probably because the person feels guilty about wishing that and realizes it’s wrong, so it actually is a secret. Though I do hope they get therapy — generally if you’re wishing that sort of thing you need to take care of your own feelings and such. But yeah, I feel like more and more secrets on there seem to be about being happily bigoted or are not really secrets. :(

“At this point I think I would be more surprised to see a whole page of secrets about people being nice to one another, treating everyone respectfully, communicating clearly, and restoring everyone’s faith in humanity. ”

Yeah, but we’re all more than happy to toot our own horns when it comes to these things, so they wouldn’t be secrets, either.

Oh yeah! That was the other annoying category I was going to write about! The self-congratulatory “I’m the nicest, bestest most open-minded and generous person in the world” Secrets! Oh man, I hate those too!
Ugh, nevermind, no postsecret replacement will be acceptable.

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