By Maria Popova
The chicken or the egg: did tabloid culture raise us to crave a glimpse into other people’s lives, or are we psychologically pre-wired with voyeuristic tendencies? Whatever the case, we’ve noticed a fairly new trend: our inner Peeping Toms have zoomed in less on Joe DiMaggio and more on Average Joe — we call it layman voyeurism, the draw of peeping into random strangers’ lives for no other reason than basic human curiosity, and perhaps a teeny little bit of self-comparison to make ourselves feel better.
Ah, the granddaddy of layman voyeurism: PostSecret. Part art, part cathartic confession, this ongoing collaborative community project introduced us to the rich emotional world of suppressed human sentiment.
Through homemade postcards scribbled with personal secrets, it has brought to light thousands of never-before-spoken anonymous confessions since its inception in 2004.
It all started with an installation for Artomatic that year, but it wasn’t long before creator Frank Warren took the project online — because, after all, what better medium to indulge anonymous confession that the Interwebs? Today, there’s a Facebook page with over 150,000 fans. And, of course, there are the books — which could easily be the most moving read you’ve savored in a long, long time.
Often dark, sometimes funny, and always sure to move, the PostSecret phenomenon could easily have ignited the fuse on this whole rush for peeping into the lives of everyday strangers.
So go ahead, free-fall right into it and mail in a secret of your own. You’ll feel so much lighter.
Not all layman voyeurism has to be dark. It can, in fact, be very, very light — especially when you open the door. We’re talking about FridgeWatcher — an offbeat project that simply invites people to open their fridges to others — because “every fridge tells a story.”
We suspect this one is all about the self-comparison factor: peek into a fridge healthier than yours, and you might just guilt yourself into stopping by the produce aisle on the way home. See a sloppier one, and you’ll have a comeback for next time your mother comes over to nit-pick your life.
We dig the concept — so much, in fact, that we opened our own fridge to the world. Go ahead, be judgmental.
Sure, Bush may not have gotten the can’t-buy-me-love memo. But $152 billion in “economic stimulus” later, we’re for once reaping the benefits of W’s questionable judgment calls — and we’re all doing it in different ways.
HowISpentMyStimulus chronicles what exactly Americans are spending their give-or-take $600 on. From the rational debt-relievers, to the hopeless gadget geeks, to the unapologetically self-indulgent, to those we’ll try not to judge, the entire project is one big, rather pointless endeavor. But we dare you to close that browser window once you start stimulus-peeping.
And while we’re at it, what did you spend your $600 on?
Published May 29, 2008