Considerate or not? That is the question.

By Melissa Locker
June 17, 2019
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A few years ago an article in The Wall Street Journal declared that millennials are killing doorbells. While millennials are frequently blamed for the deaths of various industries (golf, breakfast cereal, cable TV, department stores) the doorbell’s demise may have pre-dated millennials.

When someone stops by for a visit, they traditionally roll up to the front door and ring the doorbell to announce their presence. One push of the button sets off not only the chimes, bells, or buzzers, but at many homes it also sparks a cacophony of dogs barking and children yelling or crying. If you’ve planned a surprise visit, a doorbell can be almost alarming for the person you’re dropping in on. When the doorbell rings, it can startle the person inside who then has to drop what they’re doing and come see who has stopped by for a visit. Doorbells are a nightmare if someone has just stepped into the shower, settled down for a nap, or has a baby finally sleeping.

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The rise of phones—and a generation of people attached to them—means that people don’t need to use the doorbell to alert friends to their arrival. Instead they send a text or a direct message or whatever app or tool most used by their group of friends. Millennials and Gen Zers are reportedly so used to texting when they arrive somewhere that the sound of a ringing doorbell is a rarity that startles them, giving them an “unexpected jolt”—or worse. One young person described the ring of the doorbell to the Wall Street Journal as “terrifying.’” That feeling was backed up by an essay in Mashable where the millennial author described doorbells as panic inducing. It’s even worse in Japan, where a 2016 survey found that almost half of Japanese people hide when someone rings their doorbell.

So, is it rude to ring doorbells? No, not really. Doorbells are a part of modern life. That said, it isn’t such a bad idea to call before just dropping by. Or if you know your friend has a young child who may be napping, it is good form to text instead of buzz and risk waking a finally sleeping baby. Similarly, if your friend has a team of dogs that are riled up by the sound of the doorbell, it may be nice to text them instead of ringing the bell. If you’re not sure where your friends land on the to-ring-or-not-to-ring scale, just pretend you’re in downtown Charleston where doorbells don’t work and friends knock or just walk on inside.

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