Amish youth on Facebook
If you dig around enough on Facebook, you’ll come across profiles of adolescents with Amish names and profile pics taken in Plain clothing. These were the catalyst for an interesting piece–“Amish youth hitchin’ up to Facebook“–in yesterday’s Lancaster Sunday News.
As the article makes clear, Amish youth+Facebook is far from a universal phenomenon. I thought one insight by Steven Nolt was particularly interesting–the way Amish youth use Facebook may actually reinforce the culture, rather than necessarily open Amish youth up to the evils of the world:
Dr. Steve Nolt, history professor at Goshen College in Indiana, and author or co-author of nine books on Amish and Mennonite culture, noted that many of the Lancaster-area youth on Facebook who appear to be Amish are only “friends” with other Amish kids. “In that sense, it serves [as] an insulating social network — one more way that Amish youth socialize only with other Amish youth — rather than a means of expanding Amish social circles,” Nolt said.
I had a few comments which appeared in the article as well, mostly on Amish use of email.
In a quote that didn’t make the piece, I also told the author that I’d be surprised if some Amish youth were not on Facebook. Like any other activity with adolescent appeal, a segment of Amish teens will be attracted to social media.
During Rumspringa some–though certainly not all or even a majority–will engage in behaviors we wouldn’t think of as “Amish”–driving a car, parties and alcohol in some cases, and so on.
Parents of Amish youth worry about their adolescent children, just as English parents worry about their own kids during the English version of “running around”.
But Amish concern is not only about avoiding sinful or dangerous behavior, but also over whether their children will be led away from joining the Amish church.
Most Amish parents want their kids to be baptized into an Amish congregation. While they don’t make that decision for their youth, parents model proper behaviors and typically encourage their children in the direction of joining.
To your average Amish parent, Facebook is an obscure-to-unknown quantity. The Amish parent is going to prefer his/her child not to be on it, whether or not the child only has Amish friends.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the bishops would speak against this if they were aware of it,” a Mennonite with close Amish ties is quoted saying in the article.
It sounds like that is already happening, however. An Amishwoman in the piece notes that a local minister in fact did preach against the social network recently.
Photo credit: Brent/Stupid Dingo
I hope they are keeping the privacy settings on. And interesting that it mentioned they are accessing facebook from their cell phones – in this way these Amish youth are at the technological forefront.
Cutting-edge Amish youth phones
Ed that is a good point–I don’t do anything internet-related through my phone, b/c, frankly, my phone is ancient! Not only the youth but also the baptized businesspeople getting new model cell phones will have this temptation built-in.
I believe there is a bare-bones cell phone out there available for Plain people (kind of like the “Classic” no-frills model word processor that some Amish use) but don’t know the details. I guess you could always buy, say a 10-year old used model if you were worried about the siren song of the internet.
Amish youth/cell phones
There is at least one “bare-bones” cell phone plan available for the Amish. No texting, no video, no downloads,no games. Just making and receiving phone calls/voice mail. The company advertises in Amish publications.
Amish social networking has a positive side
I think this is a start, what about Twitter or Flicker. I think if there was a critical mass of Amish Youth on these sites it would be a way for the Amish teens to communicate across Amish State communities and would promote interaction, dating and emotional support. Cross Amish community mixing. So I do not think it is that grave of a transgression.
I even see most Trappist monks have community websites and the brothers have email. Even though this goes agaist the basic idea of limited technology, I think for youth with Amish to Amish contact it is nto that bad.
I saw the story from the local newspaper web site. Lancaster online.
Its funny Erik i made a mention of you being in this story on my blog this Sunday, it was in the Lancaster newspaper which i get a feed from to the blog. It was a interesting article Erik. Richard from Lebanon county’s Amish settlement.
I really like to keep in touch with my Amish friends through Facebook. Only danger that I see is the exposure they create, outsiders will certainly try to do harm. Amish kids are to outgoing on Facebook.
I’ve seen some Amish/old order Mennonites smoking cigarettes mostly its youth, and one time in Ronks Pennsylvania in Lancaster county i saw what appeared to be a Amish man leaving a bar. Was he drinking?, i wouldn’t swear to that because i was not inside that bar at that moment. Some Amish still grow tobacco in Lancaster but from my understanding under some pressure are starting to get out of growing that crop. I’ve even heard a long time ago of some Amish teens having a drivers license without the parents knowing about that, and renting a car for a fun cruise. I admit i was not there for that event so I’m only going on 2nd hand information. Does this shock me “no” people are still human, and curiosity exist in just about anything from cats to politicians. But the negatives in the Amish community would be in my mind be a very small minority compared to the rest of the Amish population. The Amish set the bar very high for themselves regarding morals, And i admire them for at least trying. Richard from Pennsylvania.
Amish on Facebook
The Amish on Facebook can be very rewarding to both themselves and outside seekers. If their faith is strong they can draw others to find a better life, especially the teens. There is enough junk on facebook and this could be a better path to be exposed. i would like my granddaughter to be able to talk to someone on the Amish facebook, as she has an interest in their way of life. Coming from Amish country she has been exposed first hand, and is interested. We now live in Idaho, no Amish here. (Sadly) Any suggestion on how she could communicate with someone on facebook?
Good and Bad
Amish youth on facebook could be good or bad, depending on how they use it. However, if I were an Amish parent I would not want my child on the internet. While the internet is not all bad there are an awful lot of vultures out there and I would not want to take the risk. Depending on the youth’s faith and obedience they could be easily persuaded into doing something wrong. There is so much crap on there to contend with.
On the other hand, facebook and the internet could be a good tool to use for socializing and even spreading ones faith to others. It all really depends on the individuals self control when it comes to making sure one does not get into the bad side of things.
It’s fine, as long as they are aware of the dangers. Don’t answer emails from Nigerian Princes asking for bank account details etc.
In today’s world so much is online today that I would imagine it would be difficult for the Amish to completely avoid the internet. It’s probably good that there is some basic knowledge of how to surf the net, as more and more Amish get out of farming and into running businesses it will keep them more competitive and open up more markets for their products.
I have been communicating with Amish and former Amish on FB. I see that a lot of the former Amish youth have strong opinions concerning their former lives and possibly this could affect those that are still part of the Amish church. Also, if they are still part of the church they may realize that their life in the church is better based on what they see and hear on FB and decide to remain in the church.
It’s interesting to think of this as a possibly positive phenomenon, thanks for bringing that up Mark. And I think Steve Nolt’s comments also indicate something positive.
Maybe a “Plainbook” could come in handy for meeting potential mates in other communities? 🙂
Michele interesting to hear you’ve been in touch with Amish/former Amish. Any adult Amish?
Lindsay–are you kidding?? I never wire money to Nigerian princes, just the deposed kings 😉 You can’t trust just anybody these days!
Hey, I just got one from an heir to a Cocoa Bean empire in the Ivory Coast whose father was murdered and they need to deposit $10M out of the country so their enemies don’t get a hold of their money…all I need to do is send along my bank details. It sounds legitimate, right? :-p
You mean Erik i didn’t win the Australian lottery, or my investment in a Nigerian diamond mine was all a hoax. Even if all that was i scam, one thing i know exist are giant ground hogs that mow yards and cook anything as long as its cheese burgers. I may never promote anything again, well at least not today,lol. Richard from the Amish settlement of Lebanon Pennsylvania.
Go with your gut, Lindsay. Sounds fine to me. And who doesn’t like hot cocoa? 🙂
Are they using caution tape for the volleyball net? That’s awesome and resourceful.
Erik, what a splendid idea! PlainBook. If I were conventionally modest in the Amish, Mennonite or plain Quaker tradition right now I’d join up. I think you should start it as an offshoot of Amish America.
Anabaptist youth and technology
Erik, great article. I have been interacting with an Old Order Mennonite community in southeastern Pennsylvania, who are very concerned about their youth utilizing cell phone technology, the internet – and in particular, accessing pornography. My husband and I have met with them to help educate them about what’s out there the youth may be exposed to [my husband has professional expertise in technology].
I’ts a tough call for them; the community members are so under-informed, yet they need to be proactive if they want to leverage safety with their youth. As parents to young adults, we had to work closely with our teenagers utilizing parental control settings to help filter out the junk. But, it was a job to stay on top of with the ever-changing technology; I honestly don’t see how the Anabaptist parents could do this without engaging in the technology themselves.
I am concerned for the Anabaptist communities; but as I reminded them, we raise our children ‘in the way they should go’, then we must trust them to ultimately make good choices for themselves.
Daniel, good eye, it does look like caution tape–but I do believe it is part of the net design. It is a regular net from what I can tell in the original photo.
Shom it would necessarily be black and white and I’m not sure yet how we’d handle photos 🙂
Online vs. offline dangers
Rhonda, you are having a very interesting experience and seeing this struggle from the inside out.
I have been discussing this issue with an Amish friend the past couple days and he made a similar point to yours–he said he was quite glad that even though the youth have access many are making the conscious decision not to get on Facebook, and are trying to be responsible users of technology.
For me, though, Facebook just seems like a small part of the bigger issue of the internet as a whole, and to be frank it is one of the more harmless sites out there. If I were an Amish parent I would be more concerned about what else my teens might find online. And actually, I’d probably be more concerned about things like driving too fast and drugs, which seem more immediately dangerous and potentially deadly.
On the other hand the internet has a seductive and insidious aspect and if your greatest concern is avoiding sin and the welfare of your children’s souls, then keeping them off the net or at least giving them the tools to be able to negotiate it maturely would be pretty important, IMO.
Dangers are definitely there...
And then comes the story today out of Connersville, Indiana where a man from a local Amish community (I presume north of Cambridge City – there aren’t any Amish right around Connersville) was sending out inappropriate messages to minors via Twitter. Perhaps if more stories like this come to light, Amish leaders will begin the clamp down on cell phone and computer use more than they have.
Okay, in response to this column I got curious and went out on Facebook and rather quickly found a whole set of Lancaster Amish teens with privacy controls set low enough to do some serious snooping. Yes, I feel kind of weird doing that, but I work with adolescent, troubled teen boys in a residential treatment center myself, so I’m always curious about other kinds of teens and the lives they’re leading in comparison to my boys.
Well, I have to say, it’s really funny to see Amish teens imitating the urban kids I work with, what with the online Amish kids wearing hoodies with their heads buried inside, grim-reaper style, and saying things to each other such as: (names blotted out to protect their privacy, at least somewhat)
J***: “wassup ma nigga??? nice pix”
E***: “hey i likey!!!”
M***** (the guy who posted a pic. of himself in a hoodie) “Not much pal, its been a long time! Whatya doin wi urself this last while?? @E*** thanks!”
J*** “yea u aint kiddin long time !! ……and tryn t keep my ass outta trouble ,, witch is kidda easy to do haha”
I honestly don’t know what’s funnier, my kids from Roxbury (part of Boston) talking and dressing that way, or kids from Gordonville, PA doing the same, aping the Boston gangsters.
Just the same, it’s good to see the Amish kids obviously traveling to ski mountains, snowboarding, or going off to warm, southern beaches.
It’s also a wake up call that somebody like me can read so many folks’ FB walls, pictures, and profiles because they haven’t got their Facebook security set to “friends only.”
I don’t know myself where we are going as a society with this social networking thing, and I guess there’s no real harm in some stranger looking at some group of kids’ snowboarding photos, but it’s a strange world out there, and seeing all these Amish kids mixing their plain clothes with their Abercrombie was pretty funny. (Where do Amish guys wear pink, “plain” shirts? All the guys in this circle of friends, that mixed pics of plain clothing in, were wearing pink shirts.)
Still, I’ve seen the Facebook pages of some of my clients, and I can tell that these Amish kids, though a few of them are trying to put on a “tough guy” image, the latter don’t have Facebook pages that are nearly as scary as the kids I know all too well.
Lastly, I did get the idea that most of these Amish kids seem to mainly only have other Amish/Mennonite kids for Facebook friends. That is, most Facebook people I know have other FB friends that are much younger and older than themselves, but I only noticed other teens, and with Amish-sounding names, on these kids’ pages. I didn’t see any obvious moms, dads, aunts and uncles “friended” nor did I see all that many obvious English friends either. From this I gather that the Amish teens aren’t quite as heavily into Facebook as most other kids their age typically are.
Alright, enough of this spying. I feel dirty enough now.
But it was very interesting.
One last thing: I’d LOVE to just once, see my Boston, troubled teens dressing and acting Amish! (Ha!) OMG, they’d have to be soft spoken, and p o l i t e. Oh the horror!
I have a fifteen year old sister, and my parents are not on facebook so I’m usually the one to notice what she’s posting…a few times I’ve had to call mom as she’s said something or posted a picture that was iffy.
I’m pretty laid back/egalitarian about most things, but I know from experience employers comb the internet when looking at potential hires to find out info…including facebook. Once it’s out on the internet it is out there forever, and I don’t want people who could have a huge impact in her life find pics of her that maybe aren’t 100% appropriate or saying things likewise.
I find it interesting Stephen, how Amish kids are picking up on the slang but do they really know what it means? Ugh, one of my pet peeves is using text language when you don’t have to…the British have a very good name for it that I won’t repeat here. I may sound like a curmudgeon but I hate seeing the English language trampled upon like that. Really, it takes all of 2 seconds to write it out properly.
A few days ago as an example, a Mennonite friend of mine posted on his facebook wall a picture he had taken from an Amish kid’s wall. It showed several girls in English clothes and traditional headcoverings, cigarettes in hand and open bottles of booze before them. He says, “There’s a ton of Amish youth on FB. Their walls are full of cussing, bragging about being drunk, and living for the weekend to get drunk…. Just a couple days ago I saw someone getting all up in the air over how bad it is to be so arrogant as to think we should take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Amish. When I saw this picture I wanted to post it to show the other side of the story. Maybe it will inspire someone to minister the Love of Jesus to the Amish!”
To those of us outside the culture it’s hard to imagine Amish youth going to such extents, but I guess it’s par for the course. Probably the 1% that uses Facebook is also the 1% that is going to stretch the rules in other ways as well.
Will you get in touch with me, please?