If you did not grow up in a developed nation, then the small button next to the door would make no sense to you. Here, we call it a doorbell. A device which makes a noise inside the house when pressed which alerts people that you have arrived. You might be confused by the bell, why is it needed? Wouldn’t knocking due? And most of all, what is appropriate? Should you ring the bell at night or not? Is it proper to ring it many times? What happens if you can’t hear the bell? What do you do then? In a quote from Jane Jacobs in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, she says, “It is kept primarily by an intricate, almost unconscious, network of voluntary controls and standards among the people themselves, and enforced by the people themselves.” (Jacobs 32) The “it” is the construct of socially acceptable behavior. She is describing how the rules following any technology or structure are made up by the people who use them, as they are the ones who make sure that these rules are followed. The challenges with any given technology are the responsibility of the people to address. From the glitz and glam of modern doorbells, to the safety of using the technology to the formal laws surrounding the bell, all of these things are put into place by the need for people to construct and follow their own rules. And, for the most part, they follow these rules.
In the beginning history of the doorbell, a round, stand-alone bell would be screwed to the front door of the home. In one of the first patents for the doorbell, inventor J. B. Young, screwed a simple bell to the front of a door and called it a doorbell (Young). It was basic and not in any way glamorous, but, it worked excellently. Most doorbells aren’t much different from the original ones today. Only today they are showing the status of people. If you have ever seen the doorbell with a video camera then you are probably in a slightly wealthy home or area, considering these bells can run around $200. (“Doorbells”) Doorbells are a subtle showing of social class. Longer bell rings and grand tunes accompanied with the press of the button are often placed as a sign of higher social class, since these types of bells were not a simple trigger tap of a mechanism but rather were a pre-recorded sound, which was more expensive to bring into the home. Bells also showed status in that they originally were for larger houses.
For most of the 20th century, homes were only about a quarter of the size of houses today. In the 20th century a home may have only been 450 square feet, and if someone were to knock on the door while their friend was in the bedroom folding laundry, then the friend would have been able to hear them. However, in the 21st century, homes are around 1770 square feet, and getting bigger (Mason). With houses getting so big, it is almost certain that without the bell people would only be able to hear in the vicinity of the first-floor foyer. So, as the price of the doorbell became cheaper and more houses were built bigger in the late 20th century, we see the doorbell show up far more. This is a huge change from the Victorian era, where people either did not have a doorbell or did not use it in the way today’s bells are used.
The main mode of communicating amongst people at the front door of the house was the calling card in the Victorian era. Calling cards were a system of notifying a friend that you wanted to meet with them later and was the modern equivalent of texting someone and scheduling a meeting with them, only much more complicated. The cards must have a call back number or address, and there were many rules on folding corners down, addressing men and women of different social classes, and even rules about what time of day was proper to drop in. The system was complicated and there were many complex societal rules that must be followed to have the system run, and as time moved on, society got simpler, and the complex nature of the calling card was diminished (Tree). Some of the traditions found in calling cards did transfer over to the increased use of the doorbell as is seen today. For instance, people should not be ringing the doorbell at 6 in the morning, nor at 10 at night, as these would be against rules set by the public. This is mostly because stopping by so late could wake people from sleep or disrupt people from going to work. Thus, original time constraints found from the use of calling cards carried forward over a hundred years. Other habits also carried over to the modern use of the doorbell from this era.
For most families in the Victorian era, children and women were not to answer the door. They were considered too weak and fragile to deal with people. Today because of women working, and children often being left home alone during the day, children are expected to answer the door; but only to people they know. This is a safety measure with the assumption that society is not safe and that children are very susceptible to dangers. An article found in the Seattle Times addresses some concerns with parents describing methods for teaching children how to ignore when the doorbell rings stating, “Unfortunately, the majority of parents leave their youngsters home alone with advice as simplistic as, ‘Be a good kid and be careful!’ In today’s times that’s simply not enough” (“A Knock”). This article addresses the issues which surround teaching children that the door may not be the safest. It informs families that “Being careful” is not a tactic to parenting in the real world. This suggests that inside home is fairly safe, and outside the door- the world -is a terrible place where people are bad. While on a normal basis there are far more harms inside the house; matches, ovens, falling furniture, bad smoke detectors- the fear of society is the outside world. This is constructed by people but especially those people with small children or disabled children.
Disabled children are the next target of the dreaded doorbell. They have the same logic as children but often do not understand danger the way other people do. One way to combat this is by training kids. In a new study, scientists developed a method of teaching children with autism to go tell a caretaker that someone is at the door instead of answering it themselves and possibly getting hurt because of it (Summers). This study showed that it was possible to teach these children about how to handle a situation with a doorbell, but more importantly shows how we use the doorbell. This is an issue which can be addressed by families, but what can people do about the friends in their life with disabilities? Including people with disabilities is partially governmental, but mostly because of rules made by people.
One of the ways the government contributes to the inclusion of people with disabilities is through the use of Americans with Disabilities Act. In the 2010 edition of the act the standard stated that residential buildings needed to have a hard-wired doorbell (“2010”). This is an interesting mandate because it involves drilling holes in walls and mandatory installation of a technology. This means that new homes built must come with a doorbell. Along with mandating that there be a doorbell, it must also include a visual signal (“2010”). Meaning that there must be some sort of light in the doorbell apparatus for inside the home. This increases the need for the mechanics of the doorbell to include LED lights, and thus the effects of the mandate also create a new field for the technology. Perhaps this is a contributing factor to the growing changes in doorbells. The once very plain and stagnant technology now is the star of the front door.
The change in technology may be the reason for the rise in video camera doorbells. These are the cutting edge of safety in today’s age. People now don’t have to look through a window- informing the stranger of their presence, but rather just pretend no one is home and have the stranger go away. This new type of doorbell is a literal view of home protection. The doorbell can be used as a vital first line of screening for families. Still, while the doorbell is a line of screening, the communities who use them still have fears which have been engrained for decades. One of the more elaborate fears which people face is the ghostly tale of the doorbell ringing, and having no one at the door. Many people believe that by opening the door when no one is there, that one could be letting evil spirits into the home. In an explanation from Sensing Angels, they described that sometimes good spirits may like to play with electricity and just might be trying to get someone’s attention (“12 Common”). But whether there are or are not ghosts, this can be extremely frightening. The fact that the technology is not in one single area, but all around the house can mean that the annoying ringing could happen at any time. Also, usually, the homeowner is not the one ringing the doorbell. This means that the rest of the world has the accessibility to front doors but not the homeowner. This concept elaborates on why most people follow social standards. However, problems come up when people do not follow these social rules, which results in others not knowing how to handle those situations where people break rules.
The other, more realistic, fear that people have about others breaking social rules happens with break ins. In an article from crime safety and security, they describe how half of all break and entries happen because someone has opened the door after the doorbell has rang and forced themselves into the home. This is the primary fear that people have about the doorbell. This fear comes from the fact that communities have laid out rules for the doorbell saying that if you ring the doorbell, then you will respect the person’s home who you have the privilege to visit. When people don’t follow this construct, homeowners don’t know what to do, because breaking social rules is not a normal procedure. If it was we wouldn’t see people being fearful. Homeowners cannot protect themselves from the outside world if the people from the outside do not respect the inside space of the home. Hence why communities must be diligent about how they address people at the door and always have a spot of skepticism for strangers. Still, there are people who do break these social rules because they do not care about them, or do not know about them, such as children.
Most children find something to do when they feel bored, such as watch television or bug their siblings, others play ding dong ditch. It seems like a harmless game, and while some kids go to the extremes, there are laws against this. When this game is frequently repeated, it can cause pain for homeowners by disrupting the peace. Many towns have ordinances which dictate that people shall not be subject to annoying noises which disrupt the peace of their lives (“Ordinance”). So, if a family has problems with the dog barking and the baby crying when the doorbell rings, then constant annoyance from the doorbell ringing could cause stress for people. In the case of disturbing the peace, a person will have a misdemeanor filed against them. Hopefully by filing this complaint they will learn the social rules following the doorbell. Some people feel stressed by people not following social rules, but some people are stressed by people who do follow social rules as well.
A newer fear that comes along with the doorbell is social anxiety. While the fear of doorbells is not technically a phobia, there are many people who get stressed or even have panic attacks because of the sound of the doorbell (“Phone”). Researchers call doorbell anxiety a form of social anxiety because the sound of the doorbell comes with the responsibility of taking to the person behind the door when answered. Often times, people behind the doorbell need information or are coming by unannounced, so homeowners are caught off guard and can be fearful of it. This also shows how the doorbell has changed over time, where people are no longer encouraged to show up uninvited, where in the past guests were. While at one time the doorbell was welcoming just a few decades ago, the prevalence of their technologies such as the smartphone and home security systems push away people from visiting. This changes the construct of the doorbell as being one only used for solicitors and the mail man. Typically, now, friends only ring the doorbell if you don’t see their text saying that they are here, or if the in-laws drop in because older generations used the doorbell as the primary method of entering a home. As time has moved on generations have thought of the doorbell as less of a functional aspect, and more of a random device that the house comes with.
Even though the doorbell is considered a random and forgetful piece of technology, this technology has a big impact on the world. Doorbells include plastics and metals for the push button, copper and precious metals for electrical wiring, and nicer bells include LEDs and glass for video cameras. While the environmental aspect of doorbells is initially not very bad, because doorbells themselves have a fairly long life expectancy (around 50 years). Also, especially with hardwired doorbells, only one component of the system may break at a time, meaning that only that part of the system needs to be replaced. The problem comes in when we look at how many doorbells are in the world. One demographic said that the number of households in the US was about 118 million (“Quick”). If most have a doorbell, that’s millions of doorbells. That doesn’t even include the doorbells which have been around since their modern invention in the mid-1800s. So clearly the waste adds up. Adverse effects with any mining and production of doorbells can span across the entire world. In E-waste, the recycling centers designed for electronics can take in old electronics. With these electronics, they can sort them into different types of electronics and start taking them apart by hand. By separating out these electronic components they are able to save hundreds of pounds of precious metal such as copper. With all of this information, it is important to look at the picture of the larger context in not only looking at getting materials for doorbells which last long, but also get better information on how that should work in the larger scheme of the world. Such aspects of the doorbell are not often brought up in conversation because of the social rules guided by people. Most people do not care about the destruction which is created by their doorbell. But they should. Still, since the pieces of doorbells are so small it is not likely that a mass doorbell recycling program will be popular anytime soon and people usually don’t go out of their way to recycle such an insignificant piece of technology. However, if companies produced these products with recycled materials maybe they could cut back on these objects being produced with new materials and taking the natural resources which are available for this prolonged societal system which we call the doorbell.
As society moves forward, the rules surrounding the doorbell will continue to change as people continue to change their social interactions with other people. The rules following the doorbell will become reflective of the people who will use them. Maybe there will be more stress to come from the doorbell or maybe there will be less in the future. The only thing to note for sure is that while laws might be able to combat negative social interactions, it is truly people who interact with each other who make these rules.
“12 Common Signs Spirit Send Us to Let Us Know They Are Around – Gifts?” Sensing Angels, Sensing Angels, 2013, sensingangels.com/free-stuff/articles_1/12-common-signs-spirit-send-us-to-let-us-know-they-are-around/. Accessed 25 Apr. 2017.
2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design. Department of Justice, 2012, http://www.hearingloss.org/sites/default/files/docs/2010ADA_Standards_for_Accessible_DesignDOJ_9_15_2010.pdf. Accessed 15 Apr. 2017.
“A Knock At The Door — How Should Kids Left Alone At Home Deal With A Stranger On The Doorstep?” Living | A Knock At The Door | Seattle Times Newspaper, Seattle Times, 10 May 1992, community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19920510&slug=1491045. Accessed 24 Apr. 2017.
“Doorbells & Intercoms.” Doorbells & Intercoms – The Home Depot, The Home Depot, http://www.homedepot.com/b/Electrical-Doorbells-Intercoms/N-5yc1vZbm92. Accessed 24 Apr. 2017.
Greene, Joel, and Melissa Cockrell. “Curiosity Quest Goes Green.” E-Waste, Kanopy, ntserver1.wsulibs.wsu.edu:5354/video/curiosity-quest-goes-green-e-waste. Accessed 16 Apr. 2017.
Mason, Moya K. “Housing: Then, Now, and Future.” Housing: Then, Now, and Future – Architecture, Domestic Space, Average Lot Size, Floor Plans, Bungalows, Evolution of Housing, http://www.moyak.com/papers/house-sizes.html. Accessed 24 Apr. 2017.
“ORDINANCE NO. 1279.” 11 July 2008, pp. 1–3., http://www.ci.bonney-lake.wa.us/UserFiles/File/Government_Downloads/City_Council/Ordinances/1200-1299/Ordinance%201279.pdf. Accessed 16 Apr. 2017.
“Phone Avoidance and Avoiding Answering the Door.” Avoidant Personality, WordPress, 9 Feb. 2012, avoidantpersonality.wordpress.com/2012/01/27/phone-avoidance/. Accessed 15 Apr. 2017.
“Quick Facts: Resident Demographics.” National Multifamily Housing Council, National Multifamily Housing Council, http://www.nmhc.org/Content.aspx?id=4708. Accessed 25 Apr. 2017.
Summers, Jay, et al. “Teaching Two Household Safety Skills to Children with Autism.” Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, ScienceDirect, Mar. 2011, ntserver1.wsulibs.wsu.edu:2114/science/article/pii/S1750946710001194. Accessed 28 Apr. 2017.
Tree, Viola. “Calling.” Can I Help You? Your Manners–Menus–Amusements–Friends–Charades–Make-Ups–Travel–Calling–Children–Love Affairs, L. And Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press, London, 1937.
Young, Jerome B. Mode of Hanging Bells. 4 July 1854.