Do the Amish use computers and the internet?

Amish use computers and go online in some cases

amish computersThe Amish and computers can seem a strange pairing.  Yet as they’ve increasingly engaged non-Amish society—and as technology has become smaller and more portable—Amish have come head to head with technologies we wouldn’t normally associate them with.

Amish generally do not own computers

A key element to understanding the Amish relationship to technology is the line Amish draw between ownership and usage.  Some technologies are viewed as harmless and even beneficial.  Flashlights, calculators, and washing machines would fall into this group.

In other cases, Amish feel that ownership of a given technology holds greater threat to the integrity of their families and communities, than usage alone.  At the same time there are some technologies and some ways of using them that would be forbidden even in this case (ie, driving rather than riding in a car).

By this token, Amish typically do not own computers but may be permitted to use them (though this line may be blurring as well, with evidence of some openness to ownership).  In some cases, Amish may use computers in non-Amish workplaces and have email accounts in order to keep in touch with customers.  And in a few cases, some Amish businesses make use of computers as well.  Thus some Amish get exposure to computers and the web.

The internet and Amish cell phone usage

The versatile cell phone, which adds feature after feature with each succeeding generation, is another way the internet has entered Amish society.  Cell phones have become quite common in some Amish settlements, found in the pockets of both Amish youth and adults.  While certainly not all Amish own them, the percentage that do is significant and growing.

Amish entrepreneurs are among those who often own mobile phones.  Amish businesspeople typically view cell phones as useful and even indispensable in some cases, as in the example of a builder who may need to stay in touch with employees and customers while traveling between job sites.  However, not all Amish would agree that they are so necessary.  Thus cell phones remain an object of controversy.

amish youth computers
Some Amish youth possess internet-equipped cell phone

Part of the concern over cell phones is the ease of access to the internet, as Amish fear exposure to online pornography and other influences detrimental to living a Plain Christian life.  Particularly worrisome to some parents, cell phones are commonly found among Amish youth in some communities.

As a side note, one might surmise that the popularity of cell phones with today’s youth may result in higher cell phone acceptance across Amish society in future, as today’s Amish youth become adults and join the church.

Amish getting online with third-party help

Some Amish businesses, particularly furniture makers,  have perceived a need to be online in order to more effectively compete in the marketplace.  As having one’s own web presence is typically frowned upon, Amish who wish to be online typically will go through a third party, often a non-Amish person who sets up and operates the Amish business’s site.

This provides a layer of insulation and at least symbolically signifies that the Amish feel casual internet usage to not be acceptable.  Having a third party handle it also reduces the potential to be exposed to worldly influences on the web.

Some Amish businesses also sell their products through vendors who operate their own online sites, another solution to the challenge of reaching an American populace doing an increasing amount of business online.

A Word-processing compromise: The Classic

Some Amish businesses have seen a need for word processing power, as well as access to useful organizational tools such as spreadsheets.  An enterprising Mennonite businessperson began some years ago to market a machine known as “The Classic”—a bare-bones contraption offering only basic functions.

amish computer
An advertisement for the Classic word processor

Ads for the Classic boast of it having “no games or gimmicks”, interestingly making a selling point out of features the product lacks.  The Classic has become accepted and even popular in some Amish church districts, which may recognize the usefulness of computers but don’t want access to the internet or graphical programs.

Amish holding the computer at bay?

Though it may seem odd to think of the Amish and computers and the internet together, the fact remains that certain segments of Amish society are exposed to computers and the internet in various ways.   Some Amish have email accounts, and there is a small number of Facebook users as well (not only among youth).

At the same time, it is highly unlikely that there will ever be widespread adoption of the home computer or internet by the Amish.  The computer is considered along with the television and phone as a direct connection with the outside world that has no place in the home.  Some Amish will continue going online to a degree, facilitated by cell phones and other devices, but resistance to acceptance of computer technologies is likely to remain fairly strong in Amish society.

For further information, see:

An Amish Paradox: Diversity and Change in the World’s Largest Amish Community, Charles E. Hurst and David L. McConnell

Amish Enterprise: From Plows to Profits, Donald B. Kraybill and Steven M. Nolt

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    1. StefanC.

      Good Documentation

      I am From Austria, I saw the Docu about Jesse and Ephraim, horrible how Amish Think,. I am Seventh Day Adventist and Christ. Nowehere in Bible stands theese Things what Amish say. Ephraim Stoltzfuss should be a missonary, that is the best Job in world. not easy to find Amish People to discus about God and Jesus. and the Bibel. Its not right what the Bishops are doing. Brainwashing is the most. Well I hope somebody answer.

      1. Adam Hovey

        I actually have some issues with the SDA comment. I am Catholic, someway or another, people consistently say what we do is not in the Bible, of course you could make that argument for or against almost any Christian, and I would be quick to point out our most important dogma (real presence) IS supported by the Bible. Although I am a vegetarian, I could (and do) make the argument that SDA vegetarianism and dietary laws are unbiblical for Christians. Though I disagree with the Amish on many things (I not being an Anabaptist) I have the utmost respect for them wanting to remain separate from the world. Christians should however, be “in the world, not of it”. I really think your rant was uncalled for.

      2. Mark - Holmes Co.

        I’d disagree with the SDA comments also. I am Old Order Amish and not only do we have a daily Bible devotional and discussion as a family, we read it in German, PA Dutch, & English depending on what we are studying/ discussing. I work in a public tourism based industry where I can & do share my faith with others. I have a great deal of respect for our bishop and have never been told to not study or share, but encouraged to do so. I’d be cautious about taking everything I see on TV as fact.

        1. Janes

          interested in amish lifestyle

          Hi there,

          I am quite surprised that there is an amish online community. I am based in Germany and watched this interesting documentary about amish communities on youtube :

          I like the way the amish people live free of toxic car exhaust, industrialized foods and in healthy family structures. It looks like a very good live but the lack of income potential and having to live without the comfort of the internet at home seems to be quite a reduction in life quality hard to compensate. Montana and the contry / close to nature life look quite idillic.

          Best regards !

    2. Jim Lehmann

      Amish Websites

      I design and publish websites for Amish businesses in Central Pennsylvania. All email responses come to me and I print and send them to my Amish clients via snail mail. My business is growing because I keep my prices down and “word of mouth” in the Amish community moves fast.

      1. Interesting Jim. There are one or two services that help with email that I know have become popular with plain people, sounds like you are in the same field. The bridge/border between Amish and certain technologies is fascinating. Different Amish find different solutions, and the long-term implications aren’t always known.

        1. Jim Lehmann

          Correct Erik. The Amish in my area may not have even had the elders consider website technology in their ordnung – yet. I’m sure it will be considered in the future. My clients do not discuss this, even among themselves. If word gets out, then a decision will have to be made, but until then I’m in business. I also “haul Amish” (taxi) but Pennsyvania law really impacts this in an adverse way for these people. Those licensed to do this charge rediculous rates and there are no specific safety checks for drivers or vehicles. PA just wants the get the $300 annual license fee and couldn’t care about anything else. Meanwhile, the Amish try to find drivers that are safe and reasonable on their own. I’m careful, and my vehicles are safe. Again, “word of mouth” travels fast, so I’m also busy.

          1. DSK

            Amish "taxi"

            We are taxi drivers too in central PA. This past Saturday there was a “sting” set up along 340 near Intercourse, along Ronks Rd and 30. They were checking both PUC registered vans and non-registered ones. My husband did not get pulled over, thankfully. All PA cares about is money in their pocket. Some vans that were stopped were not allowed to move there vans if some thing wasn’t in order with there papers. Ok, so they do this, and what the accomplish is putting someone out of work that was more than willing to work rather than live off the system. Ok, enough said I will get off my soap box now.

      2. Jim McBride

        Amish Internet


        I am researching starting a Web service for some Amish friends here in central Ohio. Several have expressed a very high interest. Not interested in always reinventing the wheel if someone has already invented it, would you be acceptable to giving me a few pointers on how to get started and recommend products that you have found to be good quality?



        1. Jim Leaman

          Amish Website Tips


          The best way to approach this is to keep it simple. I use basic WYSIWYG development software (WebEasy). Stay away from bells & whistles like flash, fireworks, and whatnot. Just a plain background and format. Here is one of my sites:
          They are looking to the internet to advertise their business, plain & simple. They are not much into online ordering or handling online business transactions. If your clients want that, you will need to handle it all and bill them accordingly. I charge by the hour for development. You will need to handle the domain name registration, and hosting fees. Just itemized all those charges and put it on the bill. I have an email address for the Amish client, but all the email comes directly to me and then I will contact them via phonecall (to their shed/answering machine). I will also print out a copy of the e-mail and send it to them via U.S. Postal.
          It is important not to discuss any clients with other Amish in an effort to build your business. They will get the word out themselves to those they can trust. At this time, the local ordnung looks the other way. Like in my previous post, it is better not to make this an issue for an ordnung ruling. The secret to get more business is to keep your rates way down. If you are fair with your hourly rates and use an inexpensive host carrier, you will get more business. I use MyDomain. Much cheaper then GoDaddy as you don’t need all those frills. Simply showcase their work, keep the site simple, be timely with your email turnaround, and show them you are interested in enhancing their business. Optimize your site as best you can so it can be found by search engines easily. Word will get out to the Amish community and they will contact you. Good luck. – – – – Jim

          1. Jim McBride


            Thanks Jim, I really appreciate your help. I have just retired from aviation and some of my Amish friends are asking me to seriously consider doing this. This is a pretty good group and I don’t anticipate any problems.


    3. @Jim McBride
      Computer technology aimed at the Internet can be a pretty divisive issue in an Amish community.
      If you end up providing services do not inform any of the Amish that you are available or are doing it.
      Let your good friends spread the word to like minded members of the community.

      It becomes a problem if the members who do not agree agitate.
      The result will be that the “Diener” will show up on the doorstep of the member who is using your service.
      “Unenigkeit” (discord) must be avoided at all cost.
      Discord about the “Ordnung” is the root cause of schisms among the Amish.
      “Discord” is not an entirely accurate translation but it is close.

      George V

      1. Jim Lehmann

        I agree

        I agree George V. I fully expect that the issue will eventually be addressed and probably negated to avoid discord. Until then, I’ll continue to try and help Amish businesses using the Internet for advertising and name recognition. The “Diener” will not come as a surprise as the offender usually has ample warning, so my clients will then have to make the decision to continue or discontinue my service. I know I am being very fair with my rates and service so if they choose not to continue, it’s okay. I understand and accept the eventuality. Your point is well taken.

      2. Good thoughts

        George and Jim, thanks for sharing this. I think these are good points to keep in mind for anyone acting as a middle person or consultant for Amish on computer/net issues.

    4. Barb

      When I visit the library in Intercourse, PA, I quite often see Amish men sitting using the computers. I haven’t seen any women using them yet. These are married men with beards, not teenagers.

    5. Sharyn Ecker

      I am one of those few people who have Amish friends on my Facebook friends list . I love the idea of Amish internet advertising !!!

    6. Carolyn B

      I am one guilty of over-romanticizing the Amish so seeing cell phones or computers outside a business setting disappoints me. I think those who hold with less technology in personal lives may be doing a good service for their communities as brought out in the article re: protecting from porn and scams, etc.
      ***Erik, one question for Amish America. There is a rumor going thru Facebook of all being forced to use timeline profile soon. I may not choose to stay with Facebook after that, but it is currently how I’m seeing Amish America daily. What other ways are there to see Amish America without Facebook?
      Thank you.

      1. How to stay in touch with Amish America

        Hi Carolyn, I don’t know much about the FB timeline, but if you’d like another way to keep up with new posts, a lot of people have subscribed to get Amish America email updates.

        All you need to do is click one of the orange “Subscribe” buttons (found in the upper left corner of blog, or at the end of each post) and fill in the form. It will deliver you an email notification every time a new post goes up. No spam or anything, just a notice in your email inbox about new posts here. And thanks for asking.

      2. Facebook timeline

        A little off-topic, but I am curious about the FB timeline thing if anyone knows–what are the minuses–is it less convenient? I have not tried it yet.

      3. DSK


        Thought maybe you would find this interesting. I know numerous Amish youth and some young married that have Facebook. 🙂

    7. Sharyn Ecker

      Carolyn yes the time line on Facebook is a permanent thing , sorry you don’t like it 🙁 !!

    8. Victor


      I am surprised to find that Amish people use computers. This basically blows my mind.

    9. Jim Lehmann

      Don't be too surprised...

      Victor and Carolyn B… You mention your surprise or even dissapointment that the Amish have at least considered such technology. You are over-romanticizing. First, although they lead a simplistic lifestyle, they are not simple people. They are shrewd in business dealings and will calculate a construction project down to the penny. Most Amish living near me are of the Old Order. Most have cell phones and Amish teens can text as fast (or faster) than English teens. I don’t think the local ordnung likes it, but so far no hard and fast ruling. The Amish people expect you to underestimate them. Don’t underestimate them. They limit their education to the eigth grade, but each are knowledgeable in ther trade as if they have a doctorate degree. They are curious about technology and will use it if it will benefit them without causing discord. The minute that happens, they will back off. It is common to see Amish using library computers for such things as email. You won’t see a computer in their homes. They do venture into understanding more about technology, but they won’t depend on it. These people are more like you than you realize… on the inside. Outwardly, it is a different story as “being plain” is as important to them as “being slim” is important to a supermodel. The perspective is different but inward feelings are quite similar to your own.

      1. DSK

        Just Like Us

        Well, said!!

    10. Nelson

      Amish ,not only go to libraries to go on internet,,but have it on their cell phone…
      I know of Amish in most catagories,,who have and use internet on their cell phones,,,all the way from Dan Church people to the New,New Orders….

    11. Iain

      Amish Request

      Dear Amish religion, I see you are using technology such as computers and e-mailing systems. If I recall correctly, your religion states that technology is abolished. I can see you are destroying your own rules therefore I say use a physical means for a medium rather than internet. Technology, according to Amish religion, technology weakens the family structure. You are weakening your religion by having websites like these. How do you deal with being hypocritic?

      1. Amish technology choices

        Lain (Iain?) this is not an Amish-operated website (see “About” link above). You are mistaken that Amish have “abolished” technology. It’s rather a fascinating response to technology which has resulted in many different ways of using it and Amish creating their own church-and family-friendly innovations as well.

        Taken as a whole Amish are pretty rarely on computers and the net, but with fewer Amish working on the farm and more and more in outside jobs, this has happened. Not all Amish think this is a good thing, others feel it can be managed as long as certain rules are observed.

        You are right that Amish are concerned that some technology will weaken families. Across the many Amish churches, Amish don’t totally agree which technologies and in what form, however.

        1. Jim Lehman


          Lain, I’m glad Erik responded as he did. This thread is a fascinating account of folks who have seen technology in use by Amish, or have helped Amish understand some benefits technology can play in the Amish society. I am certin no Amish have contributed (so far) to the text within this thread, however, I would not be surprised if we would someday see a post from one or two.

          Amish are very mixed in their views concerning technology and those who may benefit in business from it may carefully exploit how they can use it. They will be careful in doing this as not to cause concern or discord in the Amish society.

    12. free energy

      Dear Amish Community Members,
      I think you are the people that very near to the God. I have some invention on sustainable energy designs. I you want to use some of them, I will give you to use in every day life for free or without demanding any things.

      Please visit my website and contact with me.

      Kemal Duruhan MALATYA/TURKEY

    13. Mark - Holmes Co.

      I don’t understand the last comment at all… But Amish & computers? J&M Computer Repair in Winesburg employs a few Amish men. I use a computer all day at work but it has a monitoring system that reports all the sites I visit, etc. While I don’t have a computer at home, I have used a computer at the library to shop online, check work emails on my day off, etc.
      I do use an Amish made word-processor at home that runs with Windows. Using a flash drive, I can work at home. A few days a month I work at home like that. That WP can’t go online, but I don’t really want to or need to at home.
      Does that make sense?

      1. I prefer spam from the can

        Mark, you’re right, that last comment did not make sense, it was spam that snuck through the filter, deleted it.

        That happens on rare occasion, funny enough the one spam comment that made it through through happened to be on a post about computers.

        On a side note it’s amazing how much spam is constantly trying to get through on this site (and of course other sites)–just checked the spam folder, it says there are currently 1,956 spam comments in there, for only about the past 2.5 weeks. And the articles I’m seeing online suggest over 100 billion spam emails are sent each day. I think I believe that number.

        Luckily I rarely have to see any of that since I’m running two spam programs, which do the job pretty well. The only drawback is that occasionally a “real” comment does get misidentified as spam and I have to wander into that folder and fish it out 🙂

        Your way of approaching it does make sense, it seems similar to ways Amish use other technologies–using tech in a limited fashion and even a stripped down version to get the core functions you need. Do you use the Pleasant word processor?

        1. Mark - Holmes Co.

          I looked at several Amish made WP’s, The Classic, Desk-Mate, Pleasant, and also “out of date” models no longer used by English people and laptops “customized” for Amish owners. Our church later agreed not to go with customized laptops and just use Amish made WP’s for now.
          I bought the Desk-Mate because of price & the programs it runs. It runs off an inverter which runs off 12 volt batteries which are charged by solar panels.

    14. Judith


      I found this so interesting. To think there are second lives for my old computers is amusing to me. Those word processors may take up a lot of space, but who cares if they do the job. Also interesting how they are powered. How do the Amish charge their phones? Do the Amish prefer Apple or Mac? Droid or iphones?

      And then Facebook – wow, I guess that makes sense, when one has 10 brothers and sisters and 80 nieces and nephews and 80 grandchildren, it seems like Facebook would come in handy keeping track of everyone.

      I will say the smartphone is a surprising, but intelligent compromise for the Amish. It’s surprising because I don’t even use a smart phone anymore. But then again, I’ve got a phone, a laptop and the internet. I have a feeling the smartphone is going to change the Amish big time. I wonder how apprehensive the Bishops are about it – or if it’s too late now, everyone has one. I see this thread is sort of old.

      I think I will approach Apple with an Amish app and become a millionaire overnight. Shhh…don’t tell anyone. 😉

    15. Do the Amish use computers and the internet?

      Thank you for another fantastic post. Where else may anyone get that kind of info
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