As a millennial, I’ve been held responsible for the demise of many a fine thing. Diamond engagement rings, yoghurt, and even lunch—you name it, we’ve probably ruthlessly destroyed it somehow. But, if there’s one thing I’m really not sad about destroying, it’s the doorbell. I consider this (hopefully) soon-to-be obsolete device highly intrusive, but also hugely panic-inducing. And, it seems I’m far from alone in this.
Smartphone-obsessed millennials and Gen Zers are reportedly “so used to texting upon arrival that the sound of a ringing doorbell freaks them out; ‘it’s terrifying.'” For me, these words couldn’t ring more true. Whenever I’m headed to a friend’s house, the thought of putting my finger on the doorbell doesn’t even cross my mind. I send a text, WhatsApp or even a Snap to let them know I’m outside. To some, this might sound odd or even slightly awkward.
Someone just buzzed our flat and I’m doing that apparently millennial thing of not answering the door.
— Bethan (@BethanWilliams) August 11, 2017
But, there are a few reasons for this behaviour. Firstly, I worry that by pressing the doorbell, I might be pinging the wrong property, alerting a complete stranger to my presence, resulting in a hideously awkward interaction that could have been avoided. Secondly, who’s to even say that this doorbell even works? I could be just standing here like an idiot forever waiting on a friend who has no idea that I’m here. And, thirdly, when my phone’s already in my hand, and I’d rather avoid the former two scenarios, isn’t it just easier to text my friend? It’s certainly less panic-inducing.
When it comes to the doorbell at my own flat, I’d really rather it didn’t exist at all. That’s because I find it completely invasive. My friends and family text or call me when they’re at the door. So, when the doorbell sounds unannounced, I panic.
Take this past weekend, for instance. I was excited to have the flat to myself for a few days. But, one thing interfered with that peace and quiet—the doorbell. The first time it happened, I was standing in my PJs making coffee in my kitchen when the jarring sound of our doorbell invaded my home. I froze. I wasn’t expecting anyone, and I certainly wasn’t fit to be seen. The panic welled inside me as I cleaved my phone in my hand expecting a text to arrive, reassuring me that someone I knew was at the door. But nothing came. After two more rings, I knew I was probably going to have to deal with this unwanted intrusion. This happened on two more occasions that weekend, and by the end of it, I wanted to run and hide.
Thankfully, I’m not alone in my hatred of the doorbell. 19-year-old Ellen McArthur from Devon says she just texts her friends when she’s arrived at their place. “Doorbells are dead,” she says. And 21-year-old Olly Browning from London says he “insists” on his friends WhatsApping him when they’ve arrived. “I loathe how interruptive doorbells are,” he explains. His doorbell sounds “so loud and shrill” it’s “hateful”. He concedes that there is something “necessary” about having a doorbell, but he avoids going to the door if he’s not expecting something or someone. When Browning shows up at his mates house, he WhatsApps them. “I just think it’s friendlier. Also, if it’s a new house you don’t want the embarrassment of knocking on the wrong door OR interrupting a friend whilst they’re cleaning/weeing/getting ready.”
damn right I’m a millennial
I never answer incoming calls
Never answer the doorbell either
— Wally 👾 Sendy (@erasmusNYT) August 10, 2017
23-year-old Jen Lou Meredith from Suffolk says she only uses doorbells as a last resort if she her friends don’t answer their phones when she’s standing outside. She says she prefers not to answer the doorbell because she’s afraid something bad might happen. “When I was younger my parents told me not to answer the door in case it’s a stranger and they try to kidnap me (dramatic, I know). Since then, I’ve always had a sense that something bad is going to happen when the doorbell rings. So I just prefer not to answer it,” she says.
Meredith doesn’t think there’s much point to doorbells for her generation. And, I’m inclined to agree with her. In 2017—in the age of Snap Maps, iMessaging and dropped pins—having a doorbell just seems unnecessary. When a push notification or text can alert you to the arrival of your Deliveroo order, or Amazon parcel, many of us could probably get by without ever hearing our doorbell ring. To many of us, a doorbell ringing represents an unwelcome intrusion, or even “stranger danger”. If a text or call doesn’t accompany that ring, then that door won’t be opened anytime soon.