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Do the Amish Use iPads?

The Amish are known for several things: Their antiquated lifestyle, their yesteryear modes of travel, and -- perhaps most notably -- their refusal of modern conveniences.

But with computers and mobile devices in particular becoming a ubiquitous part of everyday American life, more and more people want to know -- do the Amish use things like iPhones and iPads?

In short: Yes. The long answer is more complex.

1. Why Do Some Amish Use iPads?

While the Amish all share the similarity of a common background rooted in modesty, the Amish faith is decentralized -- meaning there's no "pope" of the Amish. That also means that there's no singular unifying doctrine that all Amish agree to apply to their everyday lives.

Instead, they use a group of similar broad-stroke rules that each individual Amish group is able to interpret to their liking.

When this fact is coupled with the idea that the Amish travel slowly and have limited communication (aside from what mobile devices may offer), it means that different Amish groups in different areas will have different practices -- even Amish in the same denomination.

These differences most often happen when an Amish person presents an argument of using something in modern-day life that is so effective and helpful that it's too good to refuse.

Lancaster County Amish are a great example of this with many of them installing solar panels on their barn roofs.

There are a few rationalizations commonly behind this concept.

First, installing solar panels on a barn means that the electricity supply and use does not occur in the household. For some denominations, that makes it okay to have an electrical supply to the barn.

Second, there may be practical uses for solar panel installation aside from just having electricity, like using more efficient equipment to help someone earn a living.

Naturally, these are just the conveniences listed in theory.

In practice, solar panels also open the Amish to using electrical devices of any kind -- including iPads.

So while the majority of Amish may currently refuse digital devices like iPads, some groups -- or even individuals -- may be able to make the argument that the resources that could support an iPad are important.

Then, they get one.

2. How Do the Amish Use iPads?

While iPads are entertaining, an Amish person would most likely justify its use by saying it was for work.

This is in part because farm equipment is becoming much more digitized. For Amish who work in other professions, the main advantages are communication, coordination, planning, and finance.

In other words, the Amish often use iPads and other mobile devices to make life simpler.

(The irony is not lost on us.)

Even so, it's difficult to imagine that no Amish person has ever played a mobile game before, especially when they know how to use iPads.

So while the main reason is likely work, there's probably some play happening too.

3. Where Would You See an Amish Person Using an iPad?

You'll see Amish individuals using iPads and other devices in their places of work, usually with technology like Square an other point-of-sale devices.

You could also see an Amish person using an iPad while traveling.

(In fact, I was inspired to write this piece because I sat next to a Lancaster Amish man who was using an iPad on a train to Philadelphia.)

In the event you're on the back roads of Lancaster County, you might also find some Amish teens using iPhones and other devices as they walk, rollerblade, or drive buggies during rumspringa.

4. Where Won't You See Amish People Using iPads?

You'll most likely not see Amish people using phones or tablets in groups, possibly because it's not acceptable in large groups or the emphasis on community prevents them from using personal devices when gathering.

You also may not see Amish using digital devices of any kind in more rural areas.

Believe it or not, Lancaster County is one of the most "urban" areas where you'll find Amish people.

Other locations -- like Big Valley, Pennsylvania -- are so isolated and small that the Amish in those areas may not have the means to get digital devices.

In fact, for more conservative sects of Amish, they may not have even heard of them.

This includes yellow-topper and white-topper Amish, who are most often identified by the colors of the roofs of their buggies.

These are Amish denominations that are so isolated from mainstream living that they may be the only house or farm for dozens of miles in any direction.

Their beliefs are often much more strict than black-toppers, like you find in Lancaster. The most stringent of these Amish beliefs include wearing only one suspender because that's all you need to keep your pants up -- therefore two suspenders is a luxury.

In addition, you can keep your clothes clasped with buttons, so zippers are a luxury.

Barns can stand on their own without paint, so paint is a luxury.

And in these belief systems, it's much more understandable that these Amish wouldn't even use radios -- let alone anything digital.

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