The fervour around unified communications is a little scary at times. It's even a tad religious, with few - apart from us habitual cynics - daring to criticise the idea that having always-on comms built into everything and accessible everywhere might have its downside.

"But any time, any place collaboration lets us draw on the expertise of our colleagues and makes us all so much more productive and effective," the prophets exclaim.

Well, up to a point. That point being when the incessant instant messages distract you from the project your trying to work on, or when you check their work email when you're on vacation for fear of not meeting expectations.

And yes, so the laptop and the BlackBerry let us fill those spare moments with useful work - but is it really useful, and were the moments ever really spare?

It's been suggested that what they actually do is take away our dreaming time - the opportunity we have to free our minds from the mental shackles of work and think creatively - and that in the long run our employers will be poorer as a result.

When I discussed this with one comms marketeer at UC'08 last week, he pointed out that there's a whole generation growing up now for whom instant messaging, SMS and webcams are instinctive.

There's a complete reversal in thought patterns, he said: older users think, why turn on the webcam unless you need it? Younger ones think, why turn it off?

Similarly, where older workers wonder why you might want the ability to click on a name in a document and instantly IM that person, younger people think it odd that you can't.

Here's the problem: the assumption that those things are advantages, that anything enabled by unified comms must be good.

Because it just ain't so, as anyone who's tried to hold a conversation with a texting teenager or an MSN-obsessive will probably know.

Let me know your thoughts - am I being overly pessimistic or not ?