There are two parts to this – the modern part and the gentleman part. We’re going to focus on the modern part. The reason for that is simple, it’s because what it takes to be a fully-fledged gentleman is the same today as it has always been. It has always been a matter of being someone who others are able to rely on and look up to with confidence in their all-round good character.
Admittedly, in the days of Mark Twain or Henry Fielding there were certain social requirements that you would have to fulfil to achieve such a status. Questions of where you came from, who your family were and so on really mattered. Happily, things are different today. What we mean by a gentleman is more to do with how you are than who you are.
That’s the gentleman bit out of the way.
But shorn of the formality of old-time manners and a rigid set of social conventions, maintaining the good opinion of our fellow men is more difficult today. Is it OK to let off steam in public? Is it ungentlemanly to tweet about your pals? The answers to those – and a million other mine-trap questions – are probably more to do with who you’re talking to than anything else, but of course who you choose to call your friends is as good a mark of your gentlemanly status as anything else.
These days, when we are as likely to interact online as we are face-to-face it may seem like different rules apply. Being a gentleman online is a more nuanced and more delicate consideration. If you’re playing online, how you play may not seem such a big deal. But since more and more gaming is making the crossover to the digital realm, the bottom line is that the reputation you generate online will stick with you when you log off.
Likewise, if you’re enjoying a game of poker or live roulette online, there is a suggestion that it doesn’t matter how you react to winning and losing. It’s not like anyone else is going to see you leap up and down on the sofa giving yourself a round of applause if you’ve just broken the bank, or managed to secure the best sign-up offer since bits and bytes were invented.
But there’s the thing. Today, how you behave in public and how you behave in private are not such very different things. In the old days that separation was itself too scandalous to mention. In England at the turn of the 20th century – so it is said – even the piano legs in a gentleman’s home were covered up in the name of decency. We’re a little bit more laid back today.
So what we’re getting round to saying is that gentlemanly behaviour, is something that isn’t just put on for show. If you want to be a good all-round, straight up and down regular guy – the sort of guy someone would be proud to call a friend as well as a gentleman – then it does matter how you behave behind closed doors and how you behave online. Because the true mark of a gentleman – today just as much as it was back in Mark Twain’s heyday – is that it’s not a role that you slip into or out of. It’s a way of being. It’s a way of being true to yourself as well as those who are close to you. And if you’re polite and patient with those who haven’t made that step yet, then so much the better.