"Amish Surfers"

I used to visit an Amish friend about once a week. We’d talk about a lot of different things. But almost every week, something having to do with the internet would come up. The topic was often one of the many emails that I typically receive…

A man is looking for some Amish to build a log house or a barn. A woman wants to join the Amish because her husband left her. Someone else is researching their genealogy and thinks they may have Amish background. A lady wants a recipe for “Friendship Bread.” Another person wants to know the dates of upcoming “mud sales.” Others want to live on an Amish farm. Some want to advertise in Amish Country News, because they think we are an Amish newspaper and they are selling land, or livestock, or a health product.

Anyway, sometimes my friend would help me in crafting my answers. And I’d try to explain how the internet works. I never knew how much of this he really understood, but he always seemed to enjoy talking about it. So one day, I popped the question, “Would you like to go to the office sometime and see how it works?” He answered affirmatively so, one night after everyone had gone home, I picked him up in my car and we went to my office.

After I signed on and explained the wonderful world of screen names (no, you have no idea who you might be talking to) and passwords (don’t give yours out), we were online. Since he was interested in genealogies and family histories, we typed in his last name to see what we could find. I showed him how email worked. I tried to do some “instant messaging” and we may have paid a quick visit to a chat room.

Then I went to Google and typed in “Amish.” Of course, zillions of things popped up. He was amazed. We found sites dedicated to Amish furniture and quilts, recipes, tourism, general information on the Amish and their faith, and “Amish humor and satire.”

After our short surfing session, we returned to his house to chat as we always did. At one point he half-jokingly asked, “You should type in Amish and Mennonite and Lutheran and see who gets the most results.” I laughed, knowing he had thrown in the Lutherans because of my background.

Tonight, I was thinking about all of this, now that my friend is gone, and I wondered what the answer to his question would be. So I went to Google and typed in “Amish.” I received 2,590,000 “results.” Next I tried “Mennonite” and received 1,530,000. Finally, I went with “Lutheran” and came up with 6,470,000.

Finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I typed “Amish” in the “image search” of Google. About 50,000 items came up, and I really didn’t have time to get too far. I must say that this photo titled “Amish Airlines” caught my eye. I decided not to ponder what, if anything, all of this means, besides our obvious fascination for things Amish.

David Zercher-Weaver wrote an excellent book titled THE AMISH IN THE AMERICAN IMAGINATION. It looks at how we have reacted to and interpreted the Amish, and what that says about mainstream American culture. After my short time surfing today, it seems he will need to write a second volume, dedicated to the internet.

In the meantime, Abner, you’ve got your answer.

Amish Country News Publisher's Message by Brad Igou (2005)


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