‘I told my family that I had a business trip and took a vacation by myself.’
‘I told my kid she couldn’t have a cookie because I wanted to eat it myself after she went to bed.’
‘I told my roommate I was going to the gym. And I did. I locked myself in and took a nap on a yoga mat.’*
Anonymity is the new black. With the rise of popular secret sharing websites and apps anyone with internet access can share their deepest, darkest secrets in nameless obscurity. Sites such as Whisper and Secret allow users to post secrets directly to their pages as a public confessional. It seems the old adage ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ is true of secrets – that a secret shared is ‘set free’ when it receives thousands of views, likes and comments from strangers.
Using the Internet to confess secrets is nothing new. Anonymous sharing sites have been a part of the internet landscape for many years. In 2004 Frank Warren toyed with the idea of secret sharing by sending 3,000 blank postcards with an invitation to fill the card with a secret then mail it back to him. When 1,000 cards returned Warren knew he was on to something. The idea eventually evolved into the popular blog postsecret.com
A decade later and Warren no longer sends out blank cards but he continues to receive thousands of postcards from all over the world, each detailing a carefully crafted secret. Some are funny, some are rude, some are explicit and some are sad. Every Sunday Warren makes a selection of his favourite postcards and uploads them to the blog. The results are mesmerising. They convey a full spectrum of human experience. Many of them are achingly desperate and crying out for answers.
Why are we so compelled to share secrets under the guise of anonymity? For some it may be the thrill of exposing something risqué, others might be searching for solidarity when they feel isolated and alone. Most of us are afraid of sharing our secrets publicly because we are ashamed. At their worst our secrets reveal our hearts, our selfishness and our sin.
Confessing secrets on these sites offers relief. We trick ourselves into believing that somehow unloading the secret will shift the burden completely and we will finally be free. But this is an illusion. Confessing a secret to thousands of strangers will only offer partial absolution. Confessing our selfishness in a Whisper post does not magically make us less selfish. Confessing we have wronged someone on Secret will not make it right. Sharing our struggles with a PostSecret postcard cannot bring lasting relief. Our real need is for something deeper; for someone more powerful.
Only in Jesus do we find the one who is powerful enough to deal to our secrets. Only Jesus can offer us true peace when we feel anxious. Only Jesus can truly comfort us and understand the depths of our struggles. Only Jesus is powerful enough to bear our sin on the cross, taking our shame upon his shoulders. Only in Jesus can we confess and be freed from the burden of our deepest, darkest secrets.
*A selection of secrets from some of the most popular online secret sharing sites.