Facebook Helps Amish Teens Party

By McCarton Ackerman 05/29/13

"Rumpsringa"—the 2-year-break from Amish life—has gotten boozier and crazier, thanks to social networking.

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Amish teens are increasingly relying on Facebook and smartphones to both organize and document parties—maybe even more so than their non-Amish peers. But they have to wait until Rumspringa—the rite of passage for Amish teens between ages 14-16, during which they go and experience life outside of their communities, "court" each other and defy the rules of their parents. And now social networking technologies give them a wider array of options, Buzzfeed reports. "They network like only Amish people can," says Chris Weber, who counsels Amish teens about alcohol and drug abuse, "We used to have parties, but it was not this easy to find them. Now it doesn’t take long to set it up and 700 kids show up. Everyone is connected, everyone is texting everyone." 22-year-old Noah Hershberger, who recently left the Amish, says teens are getting hip to the fact that cops can read their posts, so they rely more on texting to plan boozy events. "There are a lot of underagers, so they will forward a text message around with the address, time, and whatever of the party," he says. Hershberger believes that Amish teens use Facebook even more than their peers, because it's "critical" for their Rumspringa social lives. With technological help, teen parties can now draw hundreds of people from across various communities and states—although the parties are still mostly insular, and rarely draw non-Amish young people.

In addition to Facebook, which nearly "everyone" uses, YouTube is also popular among Amish teens, as well as Instagram, Twitter and Meetme (which Hershberger describes as “a perverted site with lots of girls looking for sex”). Since most teens on Rumspringa still live with their parents, they don't own computers, so most use smartphones which can be charged using solar power strips. But despite the growing obsession with social networking, you won't find Amish teens playing "Farmville." They still consider video games "stupid," says Weber. "They are very practical; they think it's childish." But when Rumspringa ends, the party is over for most Amish teens, who must choose to be Baptized or to abandon their communities and join the modern world. An "overwhelming majority" reportedly choose to return to their communities.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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