“I’m going to learn at least one dish each week. You just need to sit back and watch.”
On a jovial note, I got off the phone with my mom and clicked on the TV-box-shaped icon of YouTube.
We were just having a bet about whether I would ever be able to teach myself to cook without her in-person, step-by-step guidance.
She wasn’t entirely convinced of my potential.
However, with a massive collection of YouTube videos on how beginners can make tasty meals in my toolbox, I was eager to show my mom that her daughter was an emerging master chef in the making.
Technology has revolutionized the way we learn. That was what I believed then.
However, after two weeks of binge-watching those instructional and “hugely helpful” videos, the reality of my barely improved cooking punched me in the face.
To be honest, the result didn’t come off as too much of a shock.
Deep down, I had always known that perfection relies in no small part on endless hours of meaningful practice.
It’s commonsensical that watching an expert chef giving you a tutorial doesn’t make you an expert.
I just did’t fully espouse it when I made the bet.
But what truly intrigued me was how much more confident I felt about myself after watching those experts’ videos when in actuality there was little change in my skill.
I was pumped and even thinking to myself that if they could pull that off so effortlessly, then I could do it, too.
In another word, watching those videos for days on end injected in me an illusion that I was getting better.
So you can imagine how frustrated I was when that bubble of illusion broke and my expectation fell through.
Dejected and demotivated, I never bothered to watch those videos again.
I am not alone in experiencing this type of failure.
With an impressive variety of online resources at our fingertips, it is natural that we use them to our advantage and learn new skills through “watching” them.
There’s nothing ineffective about this kind of learning in itself.
However, a recent study published in Psychological Science shows that if you watch an expert performing a skill unknown to you for too long, it will raise your self-confidence in a way that it arouses your unrealistic expectations of yourself.
The dissonance between your true ability and your inflated view of it can have a negative influence on your learning outcome.
You might become as frustrated as I was.
And if your resolution isn’t strong enough, you might just give up halfway.
If right now you are considering learning something new through watching online videos, be it juggling pins, ice-skating, or even Michael Jackson’s timeless moonwalk, don’t forget to mix it up with the tried-and-true method of practicing and repeating.
And most importantly, try not to get caught up in the feel-good act of watching.