ROCHESTER, Minn. — When you think Amish, you likely picture a horse and buggy, but the app TikTok probably isn’t what comes to mind. However, this story is one of contradictions, or at least two opposite things that can exist at the same time-a paradox.
Eddie Swartzentruber is former Amish. He ran away from his community in Harmony, Minnesota when he was just 17.
"On January 8th of 2014, I ran away here. I ran right down this road in the middle of the night. This right here is my parent's farm behind me,” Eddie said.
He left without a social security card or birth certificate. He had no driver's license and very little cash. So why did Eddie feel the need to flee? In the dark of night, no less? He says years of frustration over rules and limitations and modest living became too much. And at just 17, he knew they could potentially force him to go back, so he started a new life, with of all things, a haircut.
“The haircut is one of the most surreal feelings you'll ever have, or I ever had, because that was really a point of I can't go back anymore. I have to stay here now, I have to face tomorrow, and I'm going to work it out,” Eddie recalls.
Eddie did work it out. He found a job, eventually bought a car and even a house.
“Bought some nice warm clothes with zippers on the clothes, it was so cool!” Eddie laughed.
From zippers to light switches, and coffee makers to haircuts, all of it was fascinating to Eddie. And since the Amish are a very private people, he quickly learned that the rest of us were fascinated, too, by his old life. So, he started talking about it on TikTok.
“Most of my videos are just responding to question that I get,” he said. “Answering a question will spark 100 other questions."
"Do Amish Shave? Amish men have to shave their face a certain way. Amish women are never supposed to touch a razor,” he answers a curious follower in one of his posts.
The Amish, as you might imagine, are not so keen on his videos.
"Do the Amish use birth control? No, they don't have to, they are always pregnant,” Eddie said in response to another follower.
“There is an element of humor where it rubs some Amish the wrong way,” he said.
This spring, Eddie's TikTok account kind of took off, giving him a tiny taste of internet fame. But he's quick to point out all of it is just for fun and to educate others. His real joy comes from his brand-new bride and the construction company he started, Tri-State Commercial Roofing.
“A lot of people get wrapped up into this, Oh I got to get this many views, then they're depressed if they don't get any views. I don't want to be in that place. If I don't get any views, I'll be fine. I'm doing just fine," Eddie said.
And if you're wondering, Eddie has gone back to Harmony. He has a relationship with his mom and was able to have a great relationship with his dad before he passed. So while his videos might imply he is angry with the Amish, it's quite the contrary.
“This community, this farm will always have a special place in my heart,” he said.
It just wasn't the right place for him.
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