Picture an Amish community and images of horse-drawn buggies, long days of farm labor and general analog living probably come to mind. But as Kevin Granville and Ashley Gilbertson report in a fascinating new piece for the New York Times, technology is slowly but surely encroaching on these communities, potentially changing what it means to be Amish in the 21st century.
Granville and Gilbertson highlight cases of Amish business owners using computers and credit card machines to help their companies grow and teenagers checking messages on their smartphones during church activities. This might not seem like a big deal to the average American (after all, teenagers will be teenagers no matter what community they belong to), but they represent a fundamental shift in Amish values, according to Erik Wesner, who runs the blog Amish America. He told Granville and Gilbertson, “Amish life is about recognizing the value of agreed-upon limits, and the spirit of the internet cuts against the idea of limits.”
Others expressed concern that the ease of being able to look something up online might affect Amish children’s work ethic. And one Amish woman named Lizzie (most community members interviewed by the writers did not disclose their last names) made quite the profound statement on how smartphones have changed day-to-day life in her community.
“People are treating those phones like they are gods,” she said. “They’re bowing down to it at the table, bowing down to it when they’re walking. Here we say we don’t bow down to idols, and that’s getting dangerously close, I think.”
Read the full story in the New York Times.