Cell Phones

The story in the Kalona community is told of the young Old Order Amish woman who was talking to her bishop about the use of the cell phone.  The bishop was denouncing its usage, saying it was not in compliance with the rules of the church.  As the young lady was expressing her agreement with the bishop’s remarks, her purse rang.

Like most Americans, I have a cell phone.

Unlike most folks, mine is ancient.  It’s a 5-year-old Nokia.  No bells, no whistles.  The screen bears a hairline crack, the result of a long-ago tumble from a nightstand.  I use it for calls, and text messages.  That’s it.

Amish youth (and adults) with cell phones would laugh at its primitive nature.  Today’s phones are stunning in comparison.  Internet access, cameras, touch screens, applications.  I recently heard them described as containing hard drives similar to desktops of a few years back.  They’re basically pocket-sized computers.

My cell phone is a functional tool.  Its function level is low.  But I haven’t yet felt the need to update it. Maybe because of that, I use it only minimally.

I’ve never had a compelling need to check email while on the go.  There were times it would have been convenient, sure.  But email can usually wait til I get home.

Cell phones have tacitly entered Amish society.  But Amish concerns about the negative effects of easy phone access remain.  One wonders about its effects on non-Amish society.

What do you think–are cell phones essential?  Is it worth having an updated model, with all the bells and whistles?  And do cell phones improve life, or take away from it?

Kalona Amish story source: “The Kalona Amish: Retention and Defection Patterns of the 20th Century”, Erin Miller

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    1. Katie Troyer

      @Matt, I love your comment. You are being real and honest.

    2. Amish use of cell phones

      Matt I definitely would not begrudge you your cell phone. But thanks for coming clean, and you certainly have a way of describing the cell 🙂 I think I have just never been into gadgets, though a lot of people are, and I can understand why.

      My main point is just on common courtesy–regardless whether it is teens or adults. When I do receive a call when I’m in public–say on a bus or waiting in line at a store–I try to keep it short and sweet, and sounds like you’re the same. Some people seem to enjoy projecting the sound of their own voice though. Or maybe I’m just a bit of a prickly pear on this one.

      On cell phones and the Amish, you are right it is a can of worms. It has been quite a jump from shanty to pocket, and quick. Some people I know do try to set boundaries on when they use them, ie, on during business hours but switched off once 5 pm rolls around. Requires self-discipline though, which is usually where things get tripped up.

    3. Nelson

      Hello everyone,,,,
      I had to laugh at the story of the purse ringing,,and it reminded me of a time when during a church service in the summer,,and the buggies were parked right outside the shop, and inbetween songs a phone went off in a buggy right outside the shop,
      Needless to say , no one went out to shut it off, as no one wanted to be seen guilty,
      In a lot of communities cell phones are allowed in the regular Old Order Amish Communities,
      Take for example Allen County Indiana, where they still have only steel wheeled open buggies they all or almost all have cell phones.

    4. Nelson

      Allen county is close to Ft Wayne or Grabill ,Indiana, and there are around 18-20 Amish Churches there

    5. Amish listening to CDs in the car

      Hey Nelson thanks for sharing. That is a funny story too, you had me cracking up here. Now you’ve piqued my curiosity what community you’re from. But I think I know what you mean with Allen Co, when I was there I had Amish folks giving me inspirational and multi-level marketing CDs to listen to in the car player. No one was listening to them at home of course, just on the way to work. Lot of builders out there so lots of cells makes sense. Allen Co. is an interesting place.

    6. Anita

      I’m late on this one but found the comments (I read most of them) quite interesting.
      I’m in no way glued to my phone- but I wouldn’t be without it, either. Possibly my situation is a bit different since I live in Eastern Europe and the cell phone service in most areas is a lot more satisfactory than landline phones. I find they intrude, though, because it’s hard to really be ‘gone’ (referring to an earlier comment). Turning it off or muting it, though, works wonders! Possibly the thing I love most about my phone is the camera. So much easier than hauling around a separate camera. You always have one along!
      From the Amish standpoint- I know of a couple situations where several children quietly got their elderly Amish parents a phone, looked after keeping it charged and bill paid. It’s an excellent way for still independent elderly folks to get help if they need it.

    7. Matt

      I totally agree about common courtesy, and I get extremely angry at folks who chat loudly while in public places or use their cell phones in unsafe situations such as while driving. If I receive a phone call while in a public place I will try to find a private location to talk, or will tell the caller that I will get back to them when I am free.

      It is funny how the cell phone has become a “necessity” to so many people though, especially those who claim they rarely use it, and then only for emergencies. How on earth did we make it through the 70s when our car broke down, or we fell and hurt ourselves? It is a miracle we survived!

    8. Matt, precisely, how did we survive 🙂

      Along similar lines, how did we shop, communicate, get our news, etc before this internet thing came along. Well, maybe it is not at that point yet, but it certainly feels like it is headed there.

    9. Anita–also observing things from the E. Europe standpoint in Poland, it is pretty common that people here do not even have landlines, in favor of cell phones. I used to have one here, but later got rid of it. Felt odd at first, now normal.

      I wonder what % of US households lack landlines?

    10. Beverly Towne

      Sometimes I feel like people are so busy talking to the person on the other end of the cell phone “line” that they forget about the people around them. I find rudeness in groceries stores, on the road & in restaurants.

    11. Roberta

      Cell phones

      I didn’t come across this until reading the blog about beards. I got a cell phone on a “family plan” because my husband got one. My phone is turned off but I know where it is and I know that the batteries are charged. I use it occasionally but no one calls me because the people who know my number also know that my phone is always off. I wonder how useful it would be in a real emergency since so many areas in northern NY don’t have reception.

      My husband, on the other hand, keeps his phone on and right next to him 24/7. For what? Last week, after midnight, Verizon felt the URGENT need to sell him an upgrade on insurance on his cell phone.

      My husband also has a beard…

      1. Good phone strategy Roberta. I do so much more of my communication online now vs. 5 years ago, it doesn’t even compare.

        On your husband getting the harrassing Verizon calls–I’m just assuming this isn’t the first, but with calling after midnight, maybe one is enough–this is the second anecdote I’ve heard in the last 24 hours on annoying behavior by providers. The other culprit was Google on the Android phone.

    12. Elliott

      Cell Phone Craze

      I don’t have a cell nor do I want one. I just get an e-mail address about 8 months ago. i am not that important that they cant leave an old fashioned message…lol Just the looks I get when I am asked for a cell number is worth not having one. I have been asked a few times if I was amish (mostly when I wear my fedora). Its quite comical when I inform them I am Catholic! Blessings and keep up the great website.

    13. Mona G.

      I think cell phones are abused….no one is that important that they need their phone on their person 24/7…….unless maybe you’re a doctor…..people can’t even go in and eat in a restaurant without talking on their phone while they eat….to me that is so rude…..no one wants to hear your conservation…..and why do they have to talk so loud ???? People on cell phones don’t impress me at all…..I find them very rude……if I’m expecting a call,and I have to run into the post office or bank, etc. I turn my phone down really low, and if I get a call, I ignore it until I get back outside….I’ve seen people grocery shop and do their entire shopping while they are on the phone…..get a life, you can shop faster and get out and then make your calls…..cell phones are wonderful when you need them, but they are a bother to others around you…..so take your calls outside and keep your voice down…..you don’t own the world…..just saying………………

    14. And then there was the story of a man going to church one sunday. He turned around and went back for his cell phone. He also forgot his bible, but he didn’t think about getting that !

    15. Joan Sheldon

      cell phones

      I agree with Mona and Elliott. I am very happy without one, and am very annoyed with people that use them in public. My Amish friends are Old Order, and there are no cell phones in their community.

    16. Diane Paulson

      Gotta be kidding!

      It is seems to be an unfortunate situation that bishops are unaware of how cell phones can be traced. The Amish want to be separate and cell phones connect them to anyone who might want to find them. This is NOT being separate from the world. Aren’t bishops aware of that? Puzzles me. If you are out there, look into it. You might be separate from electrical lines, but lines are not needed any longer. I live in Silicon Valley and don’t want a phone. The connections are not only to too much world but to also to brain cancer etc. are being ignored. Some people chose to take a chance, whether in ignorance or not, but the lack of having one is totally possible and tolerable. The privacy is great and the peace. I don’t begrudge those who have them, but gee, how about some knowledge here. Cell phone companies don’t want you to know the dangers, so find out for yourself.

    17. John H Amey


      I live in an area that has wiFi but if you get away from that base, there is no cell coverage. Few towers yet and have to drive 12 miles to make my track phone work. That being said, I wonder if there will ever be a cell phone directory. The absence of land lines makes reaching people difficult if the number is not acquired before hand.
      That being said, in my home there is a TV for occasional movies but my news and weather all comes on my trusty IPad and above all that this little bundle of electronics makes it possible for me to write to people which is my favorite past time. And Then, I also travel the world on Google Earth.
      Not saying I am better than anyone else, but I know that some folks watch sports and movies, for hour after hour and I save so much time by writing about one hour every day and then checking mail from those who are like minded.
      The Internet can be a dangerous medium and I am appaled at how inconsiderate so many people have become. Some people sit around the dinner table, if allowed, texting, and completely ignoring all others in the room.
      Thoughts from the Canadian border,

    18. Robert W. Pappenfort

      Cell phones are not necessary for me nor is the Internet.

      Although the Nordic people invented the cell phone and IBM invented the computer: One must always remember that electricity and everything we have cannot be taken with you when you go.Mt great hazel always said that.

      We drilled for oil since 1880 in the U.S. and water before all of these devices were invented. We are drilling for Oil in Southwest Iowa because the last time I checked all tractors are not horse driven but oil driven and An Amish farmer in North Missouri said he would like to have an oil well on his property. For in Bloomfield Iowa there is a young girl in a wheelchair who has unusually high medical bills that need to be paid. Propane is Gods source of heat for the Greenhouse.

      Pappenfort Oil Company, Inc. Little Rock, Arkansas.