Text by John Lampard
It is sometimes said that people, when confronted with difficult personal problems, often prefer to seek out the solace and support of a complete stranger, rather than turning to a friend, or family member, for help or advice.
It seems the relative anonymity of confiding in someone we don’t know, together with the lack of bias someone unrelated to our day to day lives can have, makes it easier for us to open up and express sometimes quite intimate issues.
It looks like the same could also be said when it comes to expressing our inner most thoughts, fears, desires, and hopes, if the recent launch of Hidden Lives is anything to go by.
The site has received almost 1300 “hidden” thoughts from members since going live in March this year, according to founder and creator Justin McMurray.
“I am fascinated by what people are truly thinking and feeling. Their innermost thoughts. That these are so seldom shared with others is, to me, a perplexing and rich notion. So I wanted to create a space that gives license to people to express their intimate self-reflections and thoughts.”
Ironically enough the concept of Hidden Lives itself spent much time being a hidden thought of sorts, as the idea took over five years to come to fruition, says Justin.
“I jotted down the first iteration of the concept in my journal in a slightly feverish state one Sydney afternoon when I had gone home from work early. I wrote something about voices being heard from around the world. Somewhat spookily, this was on 11 September 2001, just a few hours before the World Trade Centre attacks.”
While work commitments kept the concept of Hidden Lives on the backburner for a long time, it was through his roles with Crikey, and Good Company, a “matchmaking” service for volunteers, that Justin began to realise the idea had potential. He then began refining the idea with the help of a friend.
“I grabbed a wonderful and creative friend of mine, Kari Adams, and insisted we have breakfast every Sunday morning for six months or more. And we just took the idea through wave after wave of conceptual development, refinement and discussion. Eventually the essence of the current Hidden Lives concept emerged.”
In late 2006 Remko Steenstra, was enlisted to develop Hidden Live’s technical platform, and by the early part of 2007, a beta version ready for testing, was complete. The time and effort has paid off as far Justin is concerned, and he enjoys reading every thought that members post.
“To be honest, I do not exactly know if Hidden Lives is ‘art’, a confessional, an online community, or simply just a social experiment of sorts. However I do know that when you unleash people’s innate desire for self-expression, it can have a very powerful impact.”
In light of the favourable response to Hidden Lives, Justin is now working on upgrading the site to permit easier access to its content, as well as enabling more interaction between visitors and the thoughts of members.
“As I wrote on the website, people’s responses are achingly personal, yet undeniably universal. So a young man in Perth can read something from a mother in Bosnia & Herzegovina, and irrespective of the expanse of time, distance and experience, still get an understanding of who she is.”