Now there is a question.

Without trying to sound ageist I would hazard a guess that if you are younger than 25 your answer is definitely revolutionary, if you are 60+ then most likely, your answer would lean towards the idea that mobile is destroying the art of communication.

Interestingly, if you are between 25 and 60 you are probably torn between the two and I would put myself firmly in this bracket.

Last week I heard the story that a cashier in Sainsbury’s refused to serve her next customer until she finished her mobile phone call.  The customer was outraged and I guess the cashier was none too pleased either.  Arguments from both sides were heard so I brought this up at the home of customer research (my local pub) to discuss further.

I can see the cashier viewpoint and the feeling was that to ignore your store helper by being on the phone was considered impolite, but was this reason enough to refuse to serve? Does a service such as this rely on interaction with the customer?  Are we right to question this or has our access to our mobiles negated human interaction on this level?

If I am presenting I would expect my audience to be paying attention so should the same be expected at the supermarket checkout?  I am not so sure.  A presentation relies on your audience’s ears.  The checkout counter does not – even though I can understand that if your customer is on the phone this could be considered impolite.  What if the call was from your distressed child or a key client that you have been trying to contact for weeks?  Does this change our view?

Access to mobile technology means we can communicate across the globe anytime, anywhere and this is an amazing development in the evolution of our species.  But does this mean we should be communicating across the globe anytime, anywhere?

Twitter, for example, is filled with breaking news, cries for help, offers of assistance and countless updates on what your followers are up to.  Facebook, on the other hand, is filled with social chatter, comment and the occasional picture of someone’s breakfast.  Both fabulous advancements in our communication evolution but they lack a certain human level don’t you think?

The art of communication is changing.  It is more varied than it has ever been and as a rough guide those under the age of 25 (or is it under 35…) are predominantly screen based in their communication strategy – the last thing my son will do is make a phone call – there are so many other ‘easier’ options for his generation.  But what does this mean for the next generation?

Are our children losing the art of verbal conversation?  Is ‘text speak’ acceptable?  How long will it be, if that time has not already passed, before we are ‘talking’ a different language?

Language evolves, new words find themselves in the dictionary and we communicate very differently from how we used to.  We are in transition.  What is acceptable to one is considered rude by another.  I would be very interested to know the ages of the two individuals in the Sainsbury story – but should this matter?

To communicate effectively; with power, passion and purpose does not presuppose you are having a face to face interaction.  It is certainly easier to have impact and influence when you are eyeball to eyeball but perhaps the real skill is to have this same impact when you are communicating from screen to screen?

If more and more of our communication is based on mobile technology then would it be foolish to insist on a dated view of etiquette?  Is the true challenge for us all, going forward, to discover new ways of making mobile more ‘human’?  Will Face Time and Skype replace the ‘old fashioned’ get together?  Will Telepresence ever be as good as being there in person?

If you are tempted to respond by saying ‘we will see’ then you will be left behind in the communication revolution.  We are the ones who should be shaping the new art of communication (with a little help from our kids).  If we can inspire, implement change and engage with passion and impact (without being face to face) then we will have an incredible opportunity in this ever changing space.

We may not be able to guess how the next generation will communicate but we sure can show the world how powerful our communication can be.  Mobile communication is part of our evolution.  Just as cave paintings and the invention of print were landmarks and stepping stones to our communication present, mobile will take us to the next stage of our communication future.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to be in the driving seat?

Please let me know your views – this debate will run and run – which is both exciting and essential.

Nick Looby is a Communication Consultant and Business Owner – he would love to talk to you about your communication strategy and would be honoured to speak on all things communication at any event you may be holding – feel free to email or call.

Email:       Mobile: 07800 662450