I think one of the best litmus tests of quality in books about the internet is how they treat Second Life. Because Second Life is almost certainly, objectively not important or relevant enough to warrant most coverage. So when they use it, it tells me one of two things. They either have no idea what they’re talking about, or the example was just too lush for them to pass up. In the latter case, it’s the perfect strawman—a vehicle that can take as much projection and as much manipulation as they need. If you’ve got psycho-theorizing to do about culture or the internet, look no further than Second Life. It’s able, ready and willing.

In other words, it’s convenient. I guess that’s awesome for them but how well are we served by a textbook example of the confirmation bias? Sure, the reader may suspend disbelief and think of the point rather than how it was made. But they shouldn’t have to. The author should be right. And they should know what they’re talking about.

I like when you think you know what the rhyme will be in a song lyric, and then it goes in a direction you didn’t suspect. That’s a songwriter avoiding the convenient impulse. Even if you’ve never thought that before, I think there is a little rush, a little jolt, that comes when the words didn’t follow the trajectory we subconsciously anticipated. Why? Maybe because it means they’re smarter than us or they caught sight of a route we didn’t or it’s just nice to be surprised.

There is something to be said about pushing yourself to be the person that ignores the convenient choice. To commit yourself to understanding the topic well enough that you don’t need to make rely on its “Second Life example.” Also, to start to take some pleasure in seeing the obvious—the available option—and deliberately passing on it. Because you trust that you’re good enough find something better, though it may be more difficult. The ability to survive through shocks and changes and the unexpected is bred into us. We’re evolved for it. It seems to me that we may as well cultivate a channel for expressing those skills rather than allow them to atrophy.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.