The Amish and computer issues
Have finally gotten my laptop fixed after a week of it being on the fritz, I’ve really begun to appreciate the convenience of having wireless internet access in one’s own home. How did we ever live without this stuff?
Schlepping between internet cafes in Krakow over the past week had started to get old and definitely cut down on computer time. The inconvenience got me thinking about the Amish and their relationship to computers.
Amish I talk to may have anything from a vague to fairly extensive knowledge of computers and the internet. I’ve met a handful that have surfed the web, often in a work environment. An Amish father friend of mine in Ohio has his own email account at his non-Amish employer–strictly for work purposes, which apparently is kosher in his particular district. But I’m not so sure the church would look at email usage the same way if he and I were to send non-business messages back and forth to one another.
Amish business manufacturers build luxurious office sets with spots for computer equipment. Many of these same businesses take advantage of the internet as a sales portal, having their own sites or ones owned and managed by a third party, a setup seen in certain congregations which allows individuals to avoid conflict with the church over the more-or-less taboo technology.
Some Amish districts will tolerate businesses having their own computers in the shop, however. Stopping in at one of the larger Ohio Amish furniture manufacturers recently, Amish employees in the sales department were plugging away in front of laptops. Some will draw the line at simple word processors–80’s-era castaway-type machines–but in this somewhat more liberal Old Order district full-on computers are allowed. For that matter, a number of Amish businesses in Holmes County, including an Amish-owned accounting firm, a finishing shop, and furniture maker, even use air conditioning in the office.
One of the most common misconceptions about the Amish is that they reject modern technology outright. As a number of scholars have pointed out, the Amish relationship to any particular piece of technology often involves examination and discussion and perhaps a trial period, before a final decision on it is reached. Some technologies sneak in the back door in a way, as in the case of cell phones in Lancaster County.
The computer is just another example of a technology that has become more and more prominent, as Amish society adapts to the realities of an increasingly entrepreneurial existence and the resulting closer ties with the non-Amish world.
Glad to see you back! I suppose were we not use to such things as our computers we wouldn’t miss them! LOL! Before I was on the internet I never thought about it really even though it seemed everyone else was. Now I miss it if I am not online for awhile.
Did you ever visit the place where they print the magazine “Keepers at Home”? Most of the workers are OO Amish young people(and Mennonites). It’s interesting to see them doing lay out on big screen computers.
Thanks Michelle. The wants of one generation become the needs of the next…gee, where did I get that from..? (:
Emma, I never did…where would that be located..?
I want to precise it’s not an Amish business as far as I know. If I remember correctly (I was there 4-5 years ago…) it was close to the Behalt in Berlin, Ohio. But it’s kind of a faint souvenir, so I’m really not sure anymore.
(Very interesting cyclorama at the Behalt, by the way. Did you see it?)
I did Emma (: I enjoyed it, a friend of mine’s father is a guide there. I managed to get the nice folks that work there to let me take Jonas Stutzman’s chair out into the lobby so I could get a photo. I’ve got a post on it and Behalt on my blog (date: Sep 18 2007).
Thank you Melonie! show him and see what he thinks (: glad you enjoy the blog, hope the rest of the family does as well.
I told my husband recently about this blog and he joked to me that “if we became Amish [I’d] have to give up the laptop”. I will have to show him this post. *chuckle* Not because I plan to begin following the Amish ways, but because we both had the misconception you directly addressed here!
Love the blog – I’ve sent the link to my ma and a good friend who are both interested in Amish life and ways.