• James S. Pasto

    James S. Pasto Profile

  • Cydney Scott

    Photojournalist

    cydney scott

    Cydney Scott has been a professional photographer since graduating from the Ohio University VisCom program in 1998. She spent 10 years shooting for newspapers, first in upstate New York, then Palm Beach County, Fla., before moving back to her home city of Boston and joining BU Photography. Profile

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There are 12 comments on POV: You’re Using the Wrong Door—and There’s a Reason

  1. I experience that shift every day to and from work but hadn’t realize why the shift. Thoroughly enjoyed this essay and I’ll be watching the doors.

  2. One thought on why people use the right-side door on exiting … When you enter, you generally need to pull the door open – hence the left-hand use as you note. When you exit, you generally push… and often you can push using your arm or shoulder even while holding a phone in your hand. Maybe overly simple, but worth observing how people open the doors in both cases, I suspect.

  3. Fascinating read! Pasto’s meticulous observation of the shifting door usage patterns reflects a keen awareness of the everyday practices that shape our interactions with urban spaces. However, the interpretation of this phenomenon through the lens of mobile phones as the primary cause seems to overlook the broader social and cultural dynamics at play.

    The concept of a non-place, as theorized by Marc Augé, refers to spaces of transience where individuals pass through without forming lasting social bonds or meaningful interactions. The act of door usage, while seemingly mundane, becomes a microcosm of how technology mediates our engagement with physical environments. Mobile phones, as ubiquitous devices, undoubtedly influence our behavior, but they are just one element within a larger network of factors shaping human conduct.

    Pasto’s exploration of door etiquette, technological impacts, and speculative fiction narratives adds layers to the analysis but also underscores the complexity of human-environment interactions. Rather than attributing the shift solely to mobile phones, a more nuanced approach would consider how technological advancements intersect with cultural norms, architectural design, social habits, and individual preferences. The evolving door usage patterns may indeed reflect a subtle transformation in our everyday practices, signaling broader shifts in urban experiences and social behaviors.

    The observation to “Watch the doors” invites us to contemplate the fluidity of human behavior within contemporary non-places and the intricate web of influences that shape our spatial engagements. Pasto’s curiosity and interdisciplinary exploration offer valuable insights into the evolving dynamics of urban life, urging us to critically examine the intersections of technology, culture, and everyday practices in our built environments.

    1. Hi Lauren,

      Thank you for your comment. You are right about those locked/broken doors. I noticed them too and in fact they figured in my short story as part of the ‘plan.’ I think they do have the added effect of ‘normalizing’ squeezing through one door, so it is interesting how the two intersect in a way that increases their effect, although they were not designed to interact with the other in mind.

      Thank you again,

      James

  4. I would say for at least a couple doors on campus the reason people use the “wrong” one is because the other one is almost always locked or broken! I know at least for myself I am so used to using the left door at one of the STH entrances instead of the right because the right one doesnt open- and since using the left is the habit for me there I tend to use it on other doors. At the CDS double doors I think that (when neither door is blocked off or just a board) people use the left door because the doors are INCREDIBLY heavy (especially when Boston winds kick in) so they tend to step over to the left to wave their hand so the doors open on their own.

    Of course the original analysis still stands but I thought this might fill in some gaps behind door-users logic. :)

    1. Hi Lauren,

      Thank you for the comment. You are right. Those locked doors definitely contribute. I had noticed them too and I factored them into the plot of my short story as part of the ‘plan.’

      By the way, I did not choose the title of my essay; it was the editors prerogative. In fact, if my theory is correct, and the right hand is preoccupied with the phone, then people are now using the ‘right’ door, i.e., the correct one given the changing circumstances.

      James

  5. Thank you for writing this article. I operate a large real estate development in Brooklyn, NY and I’ve been thinking about how to solve this issue because we experience it often. I don’t think it’s about cell phones. I say that because this has been an issue since long before cell phones. And I can tell you from personal experience that virtually all of the people I see exhibiting this behavior do not have cell phones in their hands. Your article has made me realize that this is likely due to two issues.

    – Double doors at building entrances/exits are heavier than interior doors because they need to be heavier duty to handle conditions such as wind and higher use/foot traffic. That means an exterior door that is already open is attractive because of the effort/energy required to open an exterior door.

    – It is not unusual for one of the doors to be locked in a double door situation. Many operators do that to reduce use of individual doors in order to reduce maintenance/repair. Therefore it requires more effort/energy to attempt and fail to open a potentially locked door than it does to use a door that’s already open even if that means a bit of delay.

    People are consciously (or subconsciously) aware of this because of past experience and therefore they seek a path that’s more likely to be more effort/energy efficient.

    1. Hi Jim,

      Thanks for your comment. I have noticed what you (and Lauren) point out regarding locked doors, and I have also observed that door style/structure has changed over this same period I have been observing.

      I too see many people now using the left door without a phone in their hands. I think this is because the phones have had their effect in shaping the behavior, so they no longer need to be present – they are no longer what theorist Bruno Latour calls ‘actants.’

      I began noticing the use of left doors in very late 2016 and watched carefully for about two years. I did not take notes, but I did record the behavior in my short story, even asked some people about it, and many of the events and even dialogue in the story were drawn from things I experienced, saw and heard.

      This is roughly how I saw it unfold:

      Stage 1: Phone in right hand, they transfer phone to left hand and grab handle of the right door with their right hand.

      Stage 2: Phone in right hand, grab handle of right door with left hand.

      There was overlap here and, in both cases, they were keeping with the ‘old
      way’ of using the door on the right.

      Stage 3: Phone in right hand, grab handle of left door with left hand.

      Stage 4: Without phone in hand, more than half seem to use the left door now out of acquired habit.

      I did notice during this period that quite a few buildings kept one door locked shut, and that as BU has built new buildings or renovated, I have also noticed the heavier doors that your mention. So, I think you are right that door design is a big contribution, but I do think the phones have been a factor. I have seen it even with the lighter, inner doors.

      Someone mentioned a new book by Jonathan Haidt, ‘The Anxious Generation,’ which argues that by 2010 smart phones had replaced flip phones among the new generation, giving rise to various negative effects. I have not read the book, but if he is correct, then this may be circumstantial evidence for my theory in terms of his timeframe.

      Thank you again,

      James

  6. The curiosity was explored by the author. After reading this article, I just paid attention to the door etiquette while I was going out of a restaurant. I happened to find the right door was locked and I had to use the left one to go out of it.

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