Modern Communication Zombies - RSA

Modern Communication Zombies


  • Picture of Nick Looby FRSA
    Nick Looby FRSA
    Nick Looby FRSA
  • Behaviour change
  • Social networks

Nick Looby FRSA's latest book, Modern Zombies, published in November is already shaking up the communication industry and sparking some incredibly interesting debates across all industries.

We are living in a time of Armageddon and we have a serious problem with zombies.

A communication virus is turning us into modern zombies, and we are losing chunks of our humanness.

We are infected. There is a communication virus that creeps through every home, into every office space, and can be found in every presentation hall. The world of communication is changing, becoming less human, and it will not end well.

We all have a choice: either join the ranks of the ‘undead’ and add to the noise that threatens to overwhelm us all, or rise up, wield our metaphorical machetes, and become communication zombie slayers.

In theory, it has never been easier to communicate. My smartphone alone has more than thirty apps that enable me, in one form or another, to communicate with my fellow modern zombies. We have never been more connected as we are today. We do, however, lack real human connection. It has never been more difficult to create real, meaningful interactions.

Our communication has become anaemic; it lacks the power to impact in a way that serves us. There’s plenty of it, but like doing your dishes in the bath, there is more waste than effect. Our digital realm has made things simple, but that does not mean communicating well is easy.

We are constantly surrounded by screens: glorious, beautiful, highly defined screens. Their colours are sharper than the real world. They entice us to come closer as they share their hypnotising clarity. We are drawn in, hungry; like a mirage in the desert, they promise salvation, and we are not disappointed — they have everything we could ever need. We love them and cannot be separated.

I see presenters hiding behind these screens, sharing dated knowledge, repurposing tired material, lazy in their approach, their audiences more interested in their own portable universes. It’s difficult to remember a time before screens ruled our lives. There is no going back, only forwards to a world of more. Everything we need, and a host of things we don’t yet know we need, delivered instantly, effortlessly, constantly. 

We live our lives through this technological haven rather than around it and are increasingly leaning towards the safety of it. A vast number of the population opt to observe the world through filters rather than seeing it for how it truly is. They are living their lives through the adventures of others but in turn, are losing part of who they truly are.

In a world already bursting with noise, I wonder where our voices have gone? Where is the person who dares to stand tall and share real experiences? Who has the courage to show their passion and communicate with power and heartfelt purpose in a human way?

Deloitte’s mobile consumer survey from 2016 suggests that 81% of all UK adults and 91% of 18-44-year-olds own a smartphone.  These figures continue to grow and don’t include the other devices that allow us to communicate one-to-one or one-to-many.

More concerning than the incredible rise of the machine is the fact that 34% of us check our phones in the middle of the night, 68% use their smartphone while having dinner with their family, and 81% are on their devices while watching TV. The first question of this generation relates to connectivity — if the Wi-Fi is not up to standard, they’re having a nightmare.

This communication virus is pulling us away from our truly human interactions. There is barely any room and time to develop rapport, to experience true empathy, and to connect on a human level. Communication is fast becoming the realm of the zombie, and we are losing sight of the land of the real.

On my most recent birthday, I received approximately a hundred Facebook notifications, fourteen cards, and five phone calls. Only fourteen cards on my birthday! But hold on, Nick. Don’t panic. You received a hundred greetings on Facebook. This prevailing practice reflects how communication has evolved, and we have all seen it. It is cheaper, easier, and more convenient to communicate in a digital way than the old-fashioned, time-consuming methods of the past. Herein lies an unspoken problem, a problem that is giving rise to the modern zombie. With ease and expediency, we lose much of the human sentiment of previous communication. If we’re not careful, we bring our communication to the level of a transactional exchange.

Human-to-human communication has become an art practised by the minority. When and how did that happen? When did we let that happen? We are so reliant on our technology to aid our communication journey that we no longer have to, or want to, meet face to face. Our conversations have a battle simply to be heard, and our language is evolving into a short, emoji-filled ticker tape. 

I’m not proposing we unplug our machines, light candles, and congregate around the campfire. I am suggesting we fight the virus and slay the communication zombies by stepping off the map and slowing down to interact in a way that has a genuine impact.

All these amazing advancements in communication technology are, on the one hand, a massive ally, but on the other, a huge hindrance to the human resonance that it takes to truly get through to our audience.

While it is easier to send an email, post a tweet, or update your Facebook status, it is nowhere near as powerful as genuine human communication.

We can and we must choose to be the modern zombie slayers and battle this rampant communication virus. The future of human communication depends upon it.


Nick Looby is a communication specialist and, by his own admission, a modern communication zombie slayer. Also a Professional Speaker, Owner of Feet on the Ground Training and one of the youngest (at 49) Ballroom Sequence dancers in the country.

Nick has been delighting audiences for over a decade with his impactful humour, focused observation and his power to inspire action. With his potent and unique approach to communication, Nick prides himself in being able to alter the way you think, and, more importantly, transform the way you act.  Nick has helped some of the largest (and smallest) organizations, including HSBC, UK Power Networks, Proctor & Gamble and the BBC to greater success by breaking the communication mould.

Nick recently appeared on the Business Intelligence show on SKY TV, reaching an even wider audience with his communication insights and is extremely proud to be among the TED family, speaking at TEDx events in 2015 and 2017. 

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