Some of the best writers out there are capable of captivating you with their stories because they are high in openness. Take for example Eat, Pray, Love - where the Elizabeth Gilbert describes her own broken relationship with an articulation that requires nerves of steel. Steve Job's biography exposes parts of his life and a past that is not easy for most people to lay open for public consumption.
Yes, I know Steve Jobs did not write his own biography but he did allow the author unrestrained access to parts of his life and past knowing well that his life would be exposed for the whole wide world. The mere thought of giving unrestrained access of our lives for public consumption would make most our stomach's churn.
Some authors hide being the veil of fiction while others face their ghosts and daemons head on with their writing but the simple reality of the profession of writing is that unless you are high in openness you are not going to be a good writer. People are either going to find you boring or fake.
Now, theoretically, this generation should be high in openness because they spend most of their lives on social media where they lay their life open for the rest of the world to consume. So they should be really high in the traits of openness, right? Actually, the more I observe the way the current generation engages with social media websites and the internet in general the more I am convinced that social media hardly has anything to do with openness. Being open is almost an antonym of being fake; and when you selectively pick the most glamorous parts of your life and then photoshop them and edit them to publish them on Facebook you aren't being open - you are just being fake.
With the way most people engage with the internet, I'm almost starting to believe that the more you engage on Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media platforms the more you loose your traits of openness. I could write essay after essay to illustrate the difference between being fake on social media and being high on the trait of openness, but I thought I might be able make one simple diagram that gets the point across much more articulately.
Let's assume you have a really bad fight with your wife, spouse or significant other. Here is what the flow looks like if you have traits of openness about it:
Take the same fight and introduce an aspect of fakeness and social media into it and here is what the vicious cycle of false pretense looks like:
Openness in writing is all about self awareness. You are mindful of your bad experiences, you contemplate on those lessons, then you engage in the act of learning and forgiveness about those bad experiences. This is when you finally become capable of writing about the experience articulately. Then you structure your thoughts and write with the idea of passing on a consistent message and a meaningful lesson. And once you do write about it, you let the experience go and you share it with others so that others can learn and grow from it.
Your openness and writing tells everyone that you are just as vulnerable as the rest of them, that you have learned something new about life and that you aren't ashamed of sharing what you have learned. The focus on your writing is not about you - it's about what you've learned. This is why you should never really write about something you are really angry about. Give it a couple of days. Let your head calm down. Structure your thoughts and when the focus has moved away from 'you' - then write - but not before you have practiced forgiveness and developed a new insight you want to share with everyone.
The Social Media version of openness on the other hand is just about shoving all the dirt under the carpet. Fight with your wife, go on a materialistic vacation to calm her down, take lots of pictures with fake smiles, share those with the world at large to tell the rest of your social circle how happy you are so that someone from your circle feels they aren't as happy as you are; has a fight with their spouse on how they should go on a vacation too only so that they can go on that vacation click the few pictures, publish them on Facebook and upset someone else in their circle. It's literally a viral vicious cycle that benefits no-one other than Facebook or the social media platforms. As a generation we think our lives are open on social media. They aren't. Publishing a few happy pictures or writing a few spontaneously depressing or angry political opinions on social media isn't openness.
Openness is hard. It demands that you face your ghosts and skeletons head on. That you contemplate on those, you learn something from your experiences and above all you practice forgiveness and then you write about what you've learned, not with the goal of portraying yourself as a hero or a victim but as a regular guy or girl who has grown just an inch and wants to share an idea or a life lesson.
I know you are on Facebook and Twitter. I even know you have huge WhatsApp list and a decently read blog. But that's not the same as having high openness and being a good writer. There is nothing wrong in publishing vacation pictures but the next time you are about to do that, think about how open you really are. Can you write just as articulately and expressively about a ghost from your past or an ugly skeleton in your cupboard? Can you write about how you were a jerk? Can you write about how you messed things up? Can you write about your own scary mental and phycological struggles?
If you can't, you should think twice about publishing selective happy moments of your life. It's easy to be a hero in your own novel, or a victim or the guy who lives a perfect life with happy pictures but that has nothing to do with openness. Just a little something to think about the next time you get on Facebook or Instagram.