Many of you already know about PostSecret. For those who don’t, it’s a web art project that saves lives. People write a secret on a postcard and send it to the curator, Frank Warren. He selects a limited number of postcards and shares them on his website each week. Even if your secret isn’t selected, you have told somebody. And if you didn’t send in a secret, you can still read the secrets others sent. You find yourself in those hastily scribbled notes. I’ve written about PostSecret before for one good reason: It saves lives. When you realize you’re not alone in the night that might be enough to pull you back from the brink.
Not so long ago, PostSecret undertook an ambitious new venture. They launched an iPhone app that made it easy to share, view and comment on secrets. Anyone could participate and it was moderated by the community. The hope, I’m certain, was that users could build community, help each other and realize they were less alone. That was part of what happened. Some other stuff happened, too.
- Some people found solace, connection, hope and community. I believe lives were saved.
- The internet makes it very easy for us to be bullies because we are anonymous. Some people took advantage of this and posted bullying, hateful things on some secrets. Some members of the community flagged these posts as offensive, others cheered them on.
- Some people have bigotries and said hateful things about people who are different from them. Now, if this was a secret, if someone wanted to admit that they carry these feelings, it is a perfectly appropriate use of the app. But some people posted deeply derogatory statements about various ethnicities and races, social classes, genders, sexual identities, religions and more. Some of the accompanying pictures were disturbing. Some members of the community flagged these posts as offensive, others cheered them on.
- And some people posted deeply offensive and distressing pictures of sexual behavior or violent acts. The terms of service of the app prohibited this, but it happened anyway. Some members of the community flagged these posts as offensive, others cheered them on.
Because of this last category of post, Frank Warren and his family were threatened, harassed and subject to scrutiny from various government agencies.
The app was pulled. What could have been a boon to thousands was abused by a few and had to be discontinued to keep Frank and his family safe.
Since then, Frank has received complaints from users, asking for their money back. He has refunded every single one, out of pocket, bypassing Apple entirely. He has publicly stated he will refund anyone who asks.
The app cost $1.99.
Now, I don’t know what their financial circumstances are, but if you can afford an iPhone, I bet you can afford $1.99.
Frank really put his heart out to the world to try to create something good. It isn’t his fault that it was defiled by some sick and hurtful people.
Today I sent Frank Warren $20 to cover the cost of 10 refunds. If he doesn’t need the money for refunds then I’m sure he can use the money for something else worthwhile. Frank’s work has saved innumerable lives. I’m sure he’s heartbroken that the app didn’t work; if my $20 makes his path through the world a little easier, then I’m giving it.
Frank Warren is a man who understands the power of listening. I believe in his work.
If you want to read secrets, send Frank a secret or a little cash, you can find them all here. Thanks.
(c)2012 Laura S. Packer