PostSecret at Whitworth

For freshman Bethany Carrillo, Whitworth’s PostSecret wall became personal the day she discovered a secret that mentioned her.

“I think about it every time I walk into Saga. It makes me feel slightly awkward and slightly exposed,” Carrillo said. The note itself was innocent:  It simply said “I think Bethany Carrillo is amazing and I’d date her in a heartbeat.”

“Whether people actually know who I am or not, they're reading my name and the comment this person made about me,” Carrillo said. Carrillo’s experience captures the heart of the PostSecret project: an anonymous outlet to all kinds of hidden mistakes and dreams, combined with a feeling of vulnerability about people who inadvertently show up in other people’s now-public secrets. Whitworth is definitely not the only PostSecret outlet. PostSecret was actually founded by Frank Warren in 2005.

“My motive was to create a ‘place’ where people could feel free to share their private hopes, desires and fears,  [a] place where the secrets they could not tell their friends and family would be treated with dignity in a non-judgmental way,” Warren said.

With this concept in mind, in November 2010 Special Events Coordinator Brittany Roach decided to set up PostSecret for Whitworth students.

“As special events coordinator, I planned PostSecret to only last a week during Cultural Awareness Week , but it ended up snowballing into something bigger,”Roach said.  When someone writes a PostSecret and puts it in a box in the HUB, Roach puts it on the wall by the entrance to the dining hall so other students can read one another’s secrets and confessions.

For Roach, one of the biggest benefits to PostSecrets was letting Whitworth become aware that we have a multitude of experiences.

“There is not just one Whitworth story,” she said.

But, Roach also said that PostSecret can also have its downsides.

“The biggest issue with PostSecret at Whitworth is people writing on other secrets that are posted on the wall in the HUB,” said Roach.  “It is a community art project but people still need to respect other people’s secrets.”

PostSecret is designed to give freedom of expression, Roach said.

“There is no filter on what secrets are allowed to be displayed”, she said.

While this freedom of expression is nice for some, students like Bethany Carrillo are finding their own names being mentioned in other people’s anonymous posts.  Other posts mention breaking campus rules or participating in illegal activities.  One such PostSecret mentions needing to be able to drink alcohol in order to fall asleep while another one talks about having sex on Whitworth campus, both of which break the Big Three.

“I feel like PostSecret glorifies people who do something wrong and get away with it.  It casts a bad light on Whitworth University,” freshman  Judith Kelly said.

PostSecret has its positives and its negatives, but it also paves the way to discussions at Whitworth.  Roach said when people are in the HUB and see a secret that says something like “I’m never satisfied with my body” or “I am straight.  My whole family is convinced I’m gay,” you can see the genuine reactions from other students.

“You will see people point to one and show they connect or say ‘Wow!  I can’t believe someone had to go through that.’” Roach said.

“It is definitely an eye opener to the types of struggles students are dealing with in real life,” Carillo said. “A lot of time Whitworth students put on this ‘happy, successful’ facade when really they are searching for guidance and support.”

Story by Alannah Price

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