Senior Project Profile: August Schultz '18

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An interesting thing happened to Ross School senior August (Augie) Schultz during a recent trip to the dentist. As he sat in the reception area, waiting for his turn to be seen, he looked up from his cell phone to realize that every other guest in the room—regardless of age—was also glued to a mobile device. The sight was jarring to him. “Everyone was on a phone: toddlers, moms, dads, and grandparents. It was strange because using technology as much as we do is regular, but it’s not normal,” Augie said.

For his Senior Project, Augie, an aspiring psychologist, is producing a documentary that aims to capture the changing perspectives surrounding excessive technology and social media use. Prior to beginning this project, Augie had limited experience with film. But working on his admittedly ambitious project and learning how to use documentary as a communications tool has been incredibly rewarding. “Film as a medium is very powerful, and this has been a great outlet for my creativity. I’ve learned so much,” he said.

Focused heavily on the opinions of Augie’s peers—the first generation born with widespread access to the Internet and the full burden of social media—the film will be tempered with the views of those with alternate perspectives, both older and younger, tech-obsessed and tech-eschewing. “My generation doesn’t know what’s it like to be an autonomous human without the help of mobile technology,” Augie said. “It’s so closely associated with our daily lives that we don’t know how it might affect us long term.”

Still, he feels that his generation has gotten a bad reputation for their unfettered use of phones and social media. “Adults often judge teens for always being on their phones, but many of them are just as dependent. It’s become so intertwined with our daily lives that it’s practically impossible for us not to be,” he said. “We are fiends for technology.”

Many don’t notice their dependence until they are suddenly faced with its loss. When Augie’s own iPhone broke and he was unable to replace it for a week, the experience was akin to traveling in a time machine. Though he was able to revive an old flip phone, he was deprived of the conveniences and features smartphones provide—which he found surprisingly liberating. “I think sometimes we get trapped by our phones. I want to know if having these devices adds or detracts from the human experience,” Augie said, pausing briefly. “But I have no idea, because I don’t know life without it.”