Shunning: Confessions of an Ego Surfer

I've been hearing the sound of one hand clapping for the past couple of weeks, and was prepared to ignore it. But I've never been good at walking away from controversy. I suppose that is why I gravitated to the law.

Blogging has become second nature to me. I do it because I am proud and like it when people tell me they enjoy a post of mine. I do it because I want to encourage younger lawyers to be more fully human, and hence I try to express my hopes, fears and sorrows on this page in a candid manner. And I do it because I want people to know who I am. Call this a biographical caveat emptor to potential clients, if you will. Presenting the self to the world is a form of marketing, like it or not.

Hence, I ego surf, and I always have. I Google my name several times daily to see what is being said and reported about me. Sometimes I like what I see. Sometimes I do not. The anonymous comments to news stories about cases of mine remind me the pride comes before the fall: There are people out there rooting for me to fail. It is a sobering realization.

I stumbled yesterday into the lap of a new friend's blog, Rick Horowitz. I've never met Rick in person. We've become virtual friends. We trade emails and speak from time to time on the phone. Frankly, I do not know whether I will ever lay eyes on him. In this brave new electronic world I accept the fact that some people will become important to me and that I will never lay eyes on those people. The Internet fosters some new sort of communal space that sort of snuck up on me unawares. I am in it, although not fully with it, yet.

This summer I'm reading Erving Goffman, Peter Berger and others on social psychology in an effort to understand the Internet. The Presentation of the Self In Everyday Life, written decades ago, still speaks. How to understand this electronic theater where we all send cues to others intended to convey who we are?  I feel suddenly, like a castaway: I am here, but where am I exactly?

As I was reading Rick's blog, Unspun, I saw that Scott Greenfield, a Manhattan lawyer, is still arguing with me. I've become something of a straw man to him. He claims to speak on behalf of a couple of other bloggers, Mark Bennett, a trial lawyer in Houston, and Brian Tannebaum, a Miami trial lawyer and president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  These are all big-city lawyers, and I confess to being intimidated by them. My law office is located in a town of 1,500 or so people; we joke that there are more horses than people here. I know it is the case that animals far out-number humans at my place. I often wonder whether I could cut in a big-city practice.

I've earned the suspicion of Scott and accept it. Not long ago, I delinked from his page and asked him to do likewise from mine. It is not that I care not to debate issues or that I want law-related blogging to become a mind-numbing feel good society. I just wearied of what looked to me like the struggle for social hegemony. I learned that old hands at blogging were spending a lot of time trying to influence younger lawyers: there were phone calls, private messages, off-net communications intended to get people to toe some invisible line important to those drawing the line. I find that offensive. I am not looking for someone to censor my reading for me.

So I have decided to shun those who I believe to be behaving in a manner I don't like.

Shunning is little more than voting with your feet. It is not moral disapproval, snobbery, self-righteousness, or, as Scott suggests, a request that people pick sides in some dispute or other. I'm not pitching any norm but Norm, and God only knows where that is heading.

I am both bothered and flattered that Scott is still debating something with me on other pages. I can only hope that as time passes, I will fade from his radar. The Internet is a big place. Scott has made a good place there for himself through hard work, determination and intelligence. I simply don't like what the view from the top of the hill has done to him. So I have decided to shun him rather than engage in a head-on conflict that does not seem worth the effort of engagement. Others will shun me as a result. That's fine; that's social reality. None of us can be all things to all people.

Move on, Scott. There's an infinite amount of space out there on line, and there's room for differing points of view. There's nothing to be won or lost in debates about style and temperament. Besides, I still want to refer cases to you when folks come needing New York counsel.

Comments: (6)

  • Oh Norm. This is beneath you. You've started man...
    Oh Norm. This is beneath you. You've started manufacturing "claims" and attributing them to me. Feel free to attack me for what's real, but don't lie about it. At the very least, tell the truth that it's your interpretation rather than my statements.
    You've written that I claim to be "king of the hill" in blawging. That's simply a lie, and it's neither anything I ever claimed or anything I believe. It's served to villify me and make you the underdog, but it's a facile fabrication.
    You've written that I ask people to pick sides. Completely untrue. The only person who has chosen to close down communications is you, and yet you attribute it to me. For me, it's debate and discussion. You've slammed the door shut to force a choice.
    You've written that "there were phone calls, private messages, off-net communications intended to get people to toe some invisible line important to those drawing the ling," when the only time this happened was once with you, when you posted a bizarre and completely inappropriate twit about me as a joke, not realizing the boundaries of propriety. Some bloggers have called me. I didn't call them, and I neither did, would, nor could impose any ideas on anyone.
    And you've continued to post about me, and I about you. But then, I never decided to shun you. You are the one who announced that you are shunning me. Don't be a hypocrite or a liar. You're better than that, and you don't need to make me your strawman.
    Have the guts to admit you want to live in the Happysphere, and have the integrity to take responsibility for your own choices. As long as you continue to publicly post, your thoughts remain fair game for anyone who cares to comment. You can't demand that I ignore you because you don't want to be held to account for your statements and choices.
    You carry great sway because of your statute (despite your attempts to trivialize your importance in the blawgosphere) and your excellent writing. You can't be ignored. Fabricating a stories about me, and about you, won't diminish your importance, and your influence for both good and bad compels the rest of us to take your words seriously.
    But I would very much appreciate your sticking to the truth going forward, even if that doesn't provide support your position.
    Posted on July 2, 2010 at 2:56 am by shg
  • SHG
    We both have better things to do. We both kno...
    We both have better things to do. We both know there were calls and comments to far more folks than me. Posting about your Avvo rating may not be a self-generated declaration of kingship. But it is something. You have earned the spot you enjoy through hard work. I don't want to interfere with that. I just want out of whatever game is being played here.
    I posted a tweet about your resemblance to a social marketer to tweak you: You went a little native. As for what was said between you and other bloggers, you were part of the conversations. People are afraid of you, and that breeds a sort of swagger I don't want to be around.
    My stature is what you make it, Scott. I am one voice among many. The moment you stop noticing me, you'll be surprised how little power I have. I am not seeking to compete for anything here. I just want to move on. When I see some sort of rearguard sniping in the comment sections of other blogs, it simply wearies me, as, I am sure, it wearies me.
    Happsyphere, Normettes, etc., are your rhetorical devices and attempts to ridicule what you can't influence or control. I get it. Responding in kind encourages what I don't like. Hence the shunning.
    You are bigger than this. When you resume the size and shape of the man I came to admire, I'll be a reader again.
    Posted on July 2, 2010 at 3:08 am by Norm Pattis
  • Norm,
    My stature, whatever that may be, is what o...
    My stature, whatever that may be, is what others make of it. If someone is afraid of me, then they're foolish. I'm a blawger. Like you. Like others.
    I'm one voice among the many too, Norm. That you want to make me into the king so you can topple me is your choice, not mine. So here's the deal. I abdicate and make you the King. Now you're King Norm.
    Posted on July 2, 2010 at 3:34 am by shg
  • S:
    Thrilled to the core. Nut why you would choose...
    Thrilled to the core. Nut why you would choose to be a subject is something I will never understand.
    Posted on July 2, 2010 at 4:00 am by Norm Pattis
  • I'm a law student who has actively sought out lawy...
    I'm a law student who has actively sought out lawyers and other law students online. I've gotten lots of great advice from others, and I've been privileged to have been involved in some really interesting debates. Mr. Pattis, you've been part of this experience with me, and I hope you've seen that I understand that respectful disagreements and critical comments are part of the deal. It's what happens when a person engages with others, both in the physical world and online.(Especially, though, online.)
    I'm someone with pretty regular online presence, and so are you. We both know that this brings its own problem: when someone talks, he knows we'll hear it. For some people, I suspect that's part of the fun. I don't know SHG personally, though I've had the pleasure of being insulted by him on Twitter and on both his and my blog. I do know that people say he has a fantastic reputation. I do know that his blog is widely read. Good for him.
    The good news is this: we're not on a playground. It's more like...a very crowded coffeeshop. We're sharing the wi-fi and we're sharing the creamer station and we're mostly pretty good at sharing the tables. We're all adults here and most of us also are capable of seeing through overplayed jabs.
    When a person won't let go, I get bored. Recess is over; I have better things to do with my time.
    Posted on July 2, 2010 at 10:48 pm by lauramcwilliams
  • L
    The coffee shop metaphor works well. SHG is a g...
    The coffee shop metaphor works well. SHG is a great guy. I encourage you to keep reading his blog. He covers the law coast to coast very well, perhaps better than anyone. He'll outgrow the snarkiness; it's merely a growing pain.
    Posted on July 3, 2010 at 12:51 am by Norm Pattis

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