Just think of learned helplessness as always having your thumb on a reset button while playing some video game. Every time you make a mistake, you hit that button and start over. Some Scholars, Potter in particular, argue that television is to be blamed for the lack of persistence people demonstrate in whatever they pursue in life. He continues to state that viewers learn to be helpless through the act of watching TV and not from watching particular shows or programming. He stresses how we watch television changes how we react to failure. As Potter puts it, “television causes a decrease in persistence.” Media techs are not really helpful in developing the ability to persist. They fail to help us learn the ability to cope and learn from failures. Since real life doesn’t have a reset button, Potter feels that we need to learn how to fight for what we want, rather than pressing reset. We learn through trial and error, yet with our finger on the reset button, we don’t allow ourselves to fail. Hence, we get stuck in one place and never really get ahead. We can pause; rewind, and replay live TV. In some instances, we can even start over. This technology also applies to gaming. Sometimes we start over so many times that we never finish a game successfully. Players go as far as buying or downloading codes so that they can skip stages they don’t want to bother with.
However logical, can we really blame the reset button for our impatience? If so, how far can we go with the blame?
Admittedly, I think that learned helplessness is a cool concept. We usually associate learning with purposeful means; however, Potter says that this particular type of learning is done subconsciously. Every time we start over without finishing first, we tend to become less persistent or impatient. While there may be some validity to that argument, it is difficult to see how the little reset button is eroding principles that are so fundamental to human growth and evolution. Experience, as the great Aristotle stressed, is the key to knowledge. This principle is the engine that propels global societies forward. Hence, if reset is so powerful as to deprive us of values so basic to humanity, we need to pay attention to it.
I have, on many occasions, heard people say that if they could start life over, they would do many things differently. However, I’m willing to bet money that with a new beginning, these people would make the same mistakes if not worse. I firmly believe that mistakes are the essence of perfection, but that’s a different argument for another time.
Sadly, I may be a victim of learned helplessness. While attempting to win consecutive games of spider solitaire, I end up never finishing a game. I hit reset whenever the game looks impossible instead of working it out, which is the point of the game. What would I do without that little button? This behavior is not indigenous to Solitaire. I often hit the start over button when I catch an interesting show towards the end. I think the end is pointless without the beginning, and I think many people would agree that there is no context in the ending alone.
Part 2 coming soon