The Cambridge Dictionary calls the use of "mute" as a noun "old-fashioned, offensive."
But I'm bringing the term up to date, by applying it to some modern young people, who are tragically unable to use the telephone or call a face to face meeting for any purpose. They are the New Mutes.
Before sign-language was invented, the original mutes (he said offensively) had to scribble what they wanted to say on pads of paper. It must have been an awkward way to carry on a conversation.
The New Mutes have better tools than pads of paper. They have email, instant messaging, Tweeting and texting, all of which make it easier to communicate rapidly than furious scribbling and pad-holding.
But alas, the New Mute is still mute—unable to convey meaning or feeling by tone of voice or body language or facial expression. It is not known whether the New Mutes are unaware of the crucial uses of these basic human tools, or merely unable to employ them. Whatever the case, the result is the same: The New Mutes are entirely dependent on what they say and unable to control how they say it, beyond the blunt and banal use of exclamation points and emoticons! 🙁
Thus, they cannot effectively inspire, soothe, convince, scare or motivate colleagues or customers. They can only nag their correspondents, irritate them and make them nervous with flat lines like "hope that helps!" and "thanks so much!" and "you rock!" I swear, a New Mute I was corresponding with recently had "Thanks for your patience!" as part of her auto signature.
Despite such profound limitations, the New Mutes work courageously right alongside their talking colleagues in corporations, government organizations, universities and charities. Some types of work, they do just as effectively as their talking colleagues.
Alas, another kind of work—the little matter of building rich and trusting relationships that lead to innovation and lasting bonds that connect organizations and industries and nations to build the world economy and hold human society together—this work is obviously far beyond the capabilities of the New Mutes.
Perhaps the New Mutes should be covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act, and not be pitied for what they cannot do, but rather honored for the courage they show when they are occasionally invited to a mandatory meeting or pressured into physically attending a colleague's birthday lunch. Or maybe they should just learn sign language.
Or maybe they should be taught for their own good, by elder colleagues who would probably prefer to scratch their heads in self-righteous bewilderment, that some kinds of communication must, absolutely, positively, no doubt about it, be done in person.
The School for the Rehabilitation of the New Mutes, for instance, will not offer a correspondence course.