Discovering Sexuality on the Internet with Cibele

Cibele is a beautiful little tale about what happens when you discover your sexuality on the internet.

219 Comments

When I was a teenager, I spent all of my time in role-playing chatrooms. As soon as I got home from school, I'd boot up the family's iMac and wait impatiently as AOL dialed into its servers. I would waste my evenings pretending to be someone else for strangers on the Internet.

I'll admit, when I think about those years, a twinge of shame runs through me. I was a young girl discovering who I was and I was doing it on the internet--I was just beginning to understand my own sexuality and how I wanted to connect with people. While my real life friends were meeting in each other's basements and getting their older siblings to sneak them alcohol, sneaking away into closets and bathrooms to explore each other's bodies, I was on the internet, typing out strings of fiction like, "She walked towards him, katana brandished, lips parted," and other absolute nonsense that makes me cringe to think about.

Cibele, the latest game from indie developer and Fullbright Company level designer Nina Freeman, is about meeting people on the Internet and then meeting them in real life to have sex. Freeman plays a fictionalized version of herself in this FMV game, in which we see and hear her play an online fantasy game as a magical girl named Cibele. As Cibele, Freeman meets a young man online with the gamer tag Ichi, and soon the two are flirting and sending each other photos of themselves. We see her defend the time she spends with Ichi in emails to other friends, listen to her take in his self-centered chatter, and pose in a bra for a photo to send to him.

The desktop you'll sift through in Cibele.
The desktop you'll sift through in Cibele.

It's all very real, and I respect Freeman's bravery. She confirmed that this is her story, a story that has taken her years to work through and something that she has come to terms with and grown stronger for. Freeman is expressive and bright, and listening to her talk about this encounter brings me back to my own puberty on the Internet. Being a woman on the Internet these days can be a little rough, but growing up on the Internet was another beast entirely. Between ads that persuaded you to look a certain way or buy certain things and forum posts and chatrooms that where people wrote why you should act a certain way, the endless hallway of clicking and reading could make you question your self worth. Am I pretty? Am I smart? Would anyone ever want to sleep with me? As I grew into a young woman, I was spending time in cyberspace, where everyone with a keyboard and internet connection could tell me why I was or was not pretty and how I needed to be in order to be loved.

It was harrowing, and really crappy. But the Internet and its horde of strange friends were the lens some of us used to examine ourselves in our formative years.

Discovering myself and other people while hiding behind a computer screen offered safety, comfort, and deception: I could be whoever I wanted to be, and no one would be the wiser. But when you romance on the Internet, the person you develop feelings for could be anyone, especially not who they say you are. You could find yourself attracted to a work of fiction, a phantom--or in Freeman's case, someone who got what they wanted and disappeared.

Freeman's character spends most of her time in an online RPG. For Freeman that real-life RPG was Final Fantasy Online, and there are echoes of Final Fantasy and anime visual themes in the RPG she constructed for Cibele. After exploring Cibele's desktop--a small collection of folders containing real photos of Freeman and her teenage friends, poems she has written, chat logs and blog entries--you can dive into that online game and fight some monsters with Ichi. It feels a little voyeuristic digging through these photos and files--after all, Freeman says they were all taken from old computers she had during this time in her life. But it's all a brilliant trail of narrative breadcrumbs painting a picture of a lonely, deep-feeling young woman who wants so badly to connect with a young man.

Fighting alongside Ichi in Cibele's online game.
Fighting alongside Ichi in Cibele's online game.

But through playing Cibele, my own feelings of guilt connected to my sexual awakening on the Internet faded. Freeman and I agree: these feelings, these things, have happened to more people than they may care to admit. We weren't alone in using the Internet and online games as a way to connect with others and grow, and it's not something to feel ashamed of. In some ways, those more dangerous days of the internet were the perfect way to learn social skills and street smarts when it comes to romance and relationships; by throwing ourselves in the murky deep end, we prepared ourselves for an adulthood of better choices for our own well being.

In Cibele's online game, there's one moment that struck me: after defeating an in-game boss with Ichi, he shouts, "Yes, I got the final hit on that boss!" This insinuated, at least to me, that Ichi could be a selfish individual, calling all the shots and taking all the spoils--in this case experience points, and later Cibele's heart. It's tiny additions like this line, and like the Livejournal-esque entries buried in the maze of folders on Cibele's desktop, that make the game such a brilliant construction. The story isn't pushing into your face, and it leaves much open for you to discover on your own and ponder.

Playing through Freeman's story made me feel a little happier about my own. I'm curious to see what others will feel playing Cibele, especially men who may have been in Ichi's position or others who didn't grow up on the Internet. My colleague Austin Walker at Giant Bomb spoke with Freeman as well, and the way he talks about experiencing Freeman's Internet awakening makes me excited for others to try it. Cibele is a rare window into a rare story, and Freeman's voice and presence make it all the more heartfelt.

Alexa Ray Corriea on Google+

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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Avatar image for ssh83
ssh83

I must admit... i fell prey to the click bait.

Avatar image for jdbtracker
jdbtracker

You know the gaming community is growing up when we begin to talk about highly personal content in games. The game sounds like a very personal RPG, I believe this is more a reflection of the game designer than the writer. Most games never go this deep, THINGS are objectified scrubbing them of their personal characteristics. Think of Watch_Dogs, it made the NPC's have professions and one line descriptions of themselves, making them more human; How long before these NPC's are given full fledged personalities and lives within these virtual worlds? When they no longer become things to be exploited for our pleasure? This little microcosm of a game may simply be a voyeuristic glimpse at the future of gaming.

More personal, deeper, diverse, approaching the heights of literature and cinematography in a dynamic virtual world.

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chad28_69

answers i hope to find before reading an article about a game:

so is the game good? or is it bad? how is the gameplay? how is the art?

---

answers i was expecting after i started reading this one:

how do you feel about water? and about spiders? but how do you really feel? with your nervous cells? or with your mind? or perhaps with your heart?

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PutASpongeOn

Role-playing is amazing, I still prefer it over the alternative paintedhere.

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psychomantis47

where is the article validating the discovery of sexuality in the red light district of liberty city? ill tell you all about it, can i have a job at gamespot?

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psychomantis47

what did i just read?

Avatar image for Boddicker
Boddicker

*stunned silence*

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youre_a_sheep

When the word "feel" appears eight times in an article about a video game, you know something has gone wrong. This will be one more for the bin of titles endorsed by SJW's and played by almost no one.

Avatar image for ruthaford_jive
ruthaford_jive

I don't have much sympathy for people who find the internet 'rough'. It's a virtual world that in the end isn't real, and if you put too much emphasis on it in relation to yourself, then that's your own damn fault. If the net is 'tough' then don't surf it, or don't go to places where you suspect you'll be teased or treated like crap. As long as you have the physical ability to look away from the screen and go back to reality... well... then do that. As far as parents go and kids, parents should probably step up on monitoring what their kids watch, where they go and such, or maybe instill in them the notion that "it's just the internet, walk away when it gets stupid... and believe me, it will get stupid some times." Sometimes I feel this generation is too plugged in. But that's just me.

Avatar image for Yomigaeru
Yomigaeru

Chat role-play was fun for a while, but I didn't get into it until after I had already experienced sexual encounters with others. The chatrooms were more an extension of my love of role-playing: from tabletop games like dungeons and dragons, to video games like Icewind Dale, to the MSN chatroons with convoluted "battle" systems. Just another means of realizing my "idealized" self while I was still growing into adulthood.

The "sexuality discovered on the internet" part of this conversation is beyond the scope of my experience. I was simply a nerd pretending to be a stoic wiseman among a host of other "characters".

Avatar image for really_tho_bruh
Really_tho_bruh

hmm...

This article is proof as to why parent's should be more involved with their children's lives and prohibit their use of the internet. I recommend searching through their history and using adblock. There is a way to disable incognito mode, but I forget how.

Next step is to inform your children about sex, sexual relationships, and the internet. I recommend, marathon-ing episodes of the Chris Hansen show: To catch a predator, especially in cases such as the youths like the author's and this developer's. I can not stress this enough.

Speaking of developers, monitor what you're kids are buying as well. If at least to make sure that games like this one aren't in your kids scope. Give them a budget phone until they can buy their own, in college, otherwise, make them pay for expenses around the house, so they don't continue to be entitled internet superbeings. Keep the away from Anita and GG as well.

Make sure your children actually grow up and not on the internet

Avatar image for crypticwolfy
CrypticWolfy

@Gagomkd: Well that's definitely one way of doing it!

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uninspiredcup

An interesting article, best in a while.

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bluefox755

Fairly interesting article, at least until I got to the line: "Being a woman on the Internet these days can be a little rough.."

Thought I would stop at that point, but continued to read to see if she would back up the statement, or at least explain the implication that "it's worse for women." No such luck.

Avatar image for malachi_27
malachi_27

@bluefox755: Certainly depends on a lot of things, but when she wrote that statement, I used my own intuition about things that could contribute to her feeling that way.

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TruSake

I discovered my sexuality with a real life woman. It's that much more entertaining.

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lordshifu

Well well well, when I come down easy......

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punches4lunches

Interesting. I didn't have internet access when I was growing up and developed my skills in real world situations, so socializing on the web is awkward as hell for me. I wonder if the climate of the modern internet will affect how young people (who were raised on it) will behave later in life? Will some of the worst features of online culture carry over to real life when todays kids grow up and enter the "real world?" Expectations of instant gratification, of having everything your way, not being able to handle other people's opinions, whining.

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SingletreeAve

Thinking the internet can teach you such social skills and street smarts is a recipe for disaster. If this game does that then please f'n delete it now. Go live your life in the real world.

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cjtopspin

Hmmm....a generation that grew up in a virtual world where lying about who/what you are and saying whatever you want without consequences is the norm....

Actually - looking at popular culture now - this explains a TON.

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CrypticWolfy

@cjtopspin: Take out the virtual part, and it sounds like high school, doesn't it?

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Liquidation_iLy

@crypticwolfy: Exactly. Every generation experiences criticism. I can only imagine what the next generation will be accused of.

Avatar image for Yomigaeru
Yomigaeru

@crypticwolfy: Agreed.

“Nothing is more real than the masks we make to show each other who we are.”

Most of us lied in some way/fashion to better fit in with the social groups. Teenagers have developed their own social hierarchy in schools. We've all been there.

Lying about who you are to fit in seems to be part of the human experience, and those lies may well show more about who you are than the truth.

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Chr0noid

lol, Don't see my post anywhere anymore. I know it didn't violate any rules. Where did it go? It vanished!

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manutdarsenal

you had an iMac as a teenager, and got to play with it after school. So this is what its like to live in America...

Avatar image for lakitel
lakitel

I really don't even know what this is. Why are you talking about your early sexual experiences on a game review site? How is this in any way professional? Furthermore, do you know how culturally insensitive it is to assume that your readers all come from America, and that even if they do, all they cared about as kids was getting drunk and having sex?

It doesn't matter whether you're a man or a woman, you should not be putting personal information on a gaming website, it's completely unprofessional. I really don't care how you relate to the game, I care about how the game itself is. This isn't a website for reflection and interpersonal evaluation.

There are, in fact, places on the internet where you can talk about the personal connection that you have to games, and how games have changed or altered your life. Unfortunately, an article on Gamespot is not one of them. Definitely not a place where you have forced your story unto people who did not ask for it and probably aren't interested because they don't know you.

It's sad if the only way you can get viewers on here is by doing this kind of crappy article. It's a sign of a bunch of hacks, and a big sign that Gamespot is never going to get back to even a modicum of respect. Basically, Gamespot has become the 'Target' of video game journalism.

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crxuchilbara

@lakitel: THANK YOU!

Put this shit somewhere else.

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nobledragoon

@lakitel: Well said.

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dylostmyoldaccount

@lakitel: this is a perspective that I often read & hear but don't truly understand. Is the crux of this argument that you believe news articles should be entirely impersonal? When I imagine articles like that, I find it difficult to believe anyone would read them, as I imagine pages of system specifications, genre labels, and media releases that someone spent time de-biasing; articles a computer program could generate. So there must be a balancing act between attempting to inform the reader whilst at the same time ensuring that your subjectivity/?bias does not adversely affect the trust of your audience, yeah? I think this is self-evident in how we value certain reviewers, because we want their personal experience & insight to inform their reviews. For this article in particular I found it valuable that Alexa described her impressions because I found it easier to understand her perspective, & given my own experience is so different it prompted me to think of this game in a way I wouldn't have if left to my own devices. I'm not American so I am not familiar with examples of long-form journalism in that media environment, but I am familiar with media like the Quarterly essays/the Sat Paper, etc, the Conversation, the insight sections of the various fairfax and murdoch presses - and these forms of media are characterised in one way (among others) by the inclusion & value of the personal insight & experience of the journalists. I doubt many people would describe these as the 'Targets' of newspapers simply because they included personal perspectives, because they represent themselves carefully & responsibly.

I personally didn't read anything in Alexa's article that suggested she assumed all readers were American, getting drunk & have sex. Also, whilst the audience of a medium have an influence on the content & style of the medium, clearly the people who make it do too - so I find the idea that we can tell Gamespot what they can & can't write a bit ludicrous. I work as a health professional - the idea that my patients could have 100% of the power over what I am & am not seems crazy to me, it completely denies my self-determination. I have a role in the hospital that patients are generally ignorant of until I explain - if I was limited to their expectations many of them would have longer stays in hospital & probably re-present in 24 hours.

Avatar image for lakitel
lakitel

@dylostmyoldaccount: Sure, you could argue that subjectivity has it's merits, but that wasn't really my point. My point is that the way the article is framed, objectivity goes out the window. It's one thing to say "This game reminded me of X in my childhood, bringing a new perspective" and it's another to start an article by saying "I went home, logged in, and sexed up", it' completely irrelevant. The problem here is that the tone of the article, at least the leading paragraph, isn't innocent, there's that implication of going online and having a sexual encounter with somebody else, while underage (a teenager). While I personally have no problem with that, a lot of places do not except these kinds of admissions, even when sex is the topic of that place (Forums, Reditts Xchans, what have you). Its basically like saying that an informal discussion group has tighter/better rules than a game journalism website.

Moving on, I actually do think that bias does adversely effect trust. Why would I go to somebody who I know has their own agenda when asking for advice, when I can go to somebody who will give me the objective truth? To think that bias doesn't effect trust is wishful thinking. It's ironic that you bring this point up here, since Gamespot has had a long history of bias towards advertisers that have made a lot of people lose trust in them.

I also think that it's bad practice to hold up American journalism in general as a standard. I also think that you are confusing an opinion piece with a news piece. The problem with personal insight is that it's subjective, and akin to arguing from authority. It's simply not good practice to bring in personal and subjective views into news articles. Just because people do it though, doesn't mean it's good. That's the whole point of journalistic integrity, that you take yourself out of the story you are writing about, unless of course, it's an opinion piece, and that's a different beast altogether.

In consideration of the first line of your second paragraph, when you mention a country-specific service, like AOL, you're supposed to point out what exactly that service is. For example, I wouldn't assume you know what the CPA or the CSF are, what those initials stand for, and what they do, since these are both things that are unique to my country. I might concede that there's no clear assumption on Alexa's part that all kids wanted was sex and alcohol, but it's still completely irrelevant.

My friends wanted to go out and get high or study, and I wanted to play video games, and all of that is completely irrelevant to my argument or anything that I've written here. The same applies to Alexa.

I also tend to disagree with your assumptions of influence that the writers have. If anything, writers have the least level of influence out of everybody. Most writers have to go through several drafts, all of them approved by an editor, and depending on the journal/magazine/newspaper, it could go through fact-checking, proof-reading, layout team, another editor, ect. ect. . And that's perfect, because writers aren't hired to project their personal opinion, they are hired to write, ostensibly about whatever the people who are paying them money want them to. And if we continue along this same path, the readers also generally tend to not have any influence, because ultimately, the person who decides is the person who pays the bills.

Again, take Gamespot as an example. I don't know how long you've been around or how closely you've been following it, but the website has changed in a major way in the past 10 years or so, expressly against the wishes of a large minority of people on here, as well as the most loyal and old members. 5 years ago you would have never seen one article on films, or really any non-gaming related news.

Finally, you bring up your personal experience, which is again, missing the point. It doesn't matter who you are, you are still obliged by the same rules that all health professionals are. You must do no harm. You must always obtain informed consent, and inform your patients of all available options to do so. You must not refuse treatment except under certain conditions set out by your national medical association.

So really, it doesn't matter who you are as a person, your patients value you as a medical professional, at least in the case when they require medical care. If you want to be friends with them, that's great, it's good bedside manner, and it might help them, but it's still irrelevant. You cannot advise somebody against chemotherapy because you had a bad run in with it for example, that's destroying your medical integrity. In the same way, a video game journalist/reviewer should not be recommending a game because of their personal experience.

Avatar image for deactivated-59a01e5d4a917

@lakitel: To be fair back in the day AOL services were never isolated solely to America. For a time during the early 2000's AOL was my service provider here in England. Their (terrible) software interface would have the quintessentially English Joanna Lumley alert me as to when a new item appeared in my inbox - Quite pleasant really :)

Avatar image for lakitel
lakitel

@danhalen: True, but I guess I should have made the distinction more about east/west than anything else, which is what I meant :P. And I will admit it's a more nit-picky than constructive criticism, especially when you consider that AOL is relatively well known.

Still, I just think it speaks to more people when the phrase is "I logged online", which more people can relate to, verses "I logged into AOL" which has to cross both a cultural gap, and an age gap.

I actually never had AOL here, so I'll never know how bad the service was :P

Avatar image for dylostmyoldaccount
dylostmyoldaccount

@lakitel: you know, I rarely comment anymore on any site because I've become used to inappropriate responses. I was surprised to see a good & thorough response, so thanks for that. I'll try to answer similarly.

What do you mean by "innocent"? And is not being "innocent" a bad thing? It seems that you feel sex is perhaps inappropriate to be discussed here in the first place, because of the readership or content? Which is fair, although I personally prefer discussion of sex/sexuality/diversity compared to the opposite. I suppose this content would be ?PG for 'sexual themes' so I guess choice and preference comes into whether it's ok or not.

I agree that bias affects trust. I definitely would agree that objectivity as an approach should be part of news - I just don't believe it's possible to be 100% bias-free for a bunch of reasons, so I don't expect what I read to be free of bias. I find a lot of content that claims to be objective simply sounds objective. I just trust that to an acceptable extent I can make up my own mind.

I didn't intend to use American examples as a standard (my examples were from Aus) - I was trying to argue that 'subjectivity' is valued, whether in a "respected" newspaper or a shock-jock, for different reasons to objectivity. Here again we may differ in perspectives - my preference is for more than "objective" reporting of 'facts'; I like the additional analysis for context, & the personal perspectives for different meanings to my own.

It took me a bit to understand why you didn't like the "AOL" usage. The very reason I overlooked it is itself support for what you say. Fair point.

You mention personal experience as being irrelevant in terms of Alexa's, your own, and my background. I wonder if that's the difference between our perspectives? I brought up my personal experience in health as a parallel analogy for influences on community perceptions of professional roles - ?perhaps health may be an inappropriate analogy given I see people 1 on 1 generally, compared to 1 article to X readers. I find your last sentence interesting, because I actually want game reviewers to recommend games because of their personal experience.

Avatar image for lakitel
lakitel

@dylostmyoldaccount: Well, to be fair, you made a good and thought out comment, so I thought it was only fair to respond in kind. Otherwise I'd just be a troll :P.

Yes, I would say that you are correct, I really don't think sexuality is appropriate for Gamespot, and that's only because the "tone" or "voice" of Gamespot doesn't tend to lean towards that. But no, i don't think being innocent is a good or bad thing, its more to do with what you are talking about. For example, I wouldn't expect to hear an anchor talk about sexual experiences in the middle of a news broadcast. I really think it's what Gamespot, and any website really, protrays themselves as. I wouldn't be surprised to find this article on Cracked for example, but I am surprised to find it here.

And I will agree with you that there is nothing that is truly 100% objective, you can't take the humanity out of the human. That being said, I think one of the things to strive for is to be as objective as possible, both in the language used and in the type of reporting. The main problem with subjectivity is that it's really hit and miss when it comes to information you can relate to. For example, I'm a guy, and it's not easy to relate to a woman logging online and have cyber sex. Which is why I'm saying that this kind of subjectivity detracts from the article, rather than adds to it. Yes, it might add for you, but it doesn't for me, and after all, the point of these things is to grab as large of an audience as it can.

As for the example you gave, that's my bad, I made an assumption that they are American, which I shouldn't have. Non the less, analysis doesn't require subjectivity. I'm not saying it should be "Just the facts" or anything like that, I'm just saying that the way people chose to color those facts gives or takes away legitimacy. Again, there's no problem with somebody giving their personal views on an opinion piece, but when it comes to a news article, it should be as devoid of "personality" as possible. That doesn't mean that we can see a guy kill a reporter and a camera man, and just count them as number, but it does mean that we shouldn't embellish it with information that doesn't need to be there.

One thing that unscrupulous people do, is tack on agendas and personal beliefs into tragedies like these for their own agenda. Like for example saying this guy is republic, or this guy is a muslim, it really muddies the waters in an unacceptable way. Of course, I'm not saying that Alexa is doing that, I'm merely saying that it's a slippery slope that should be left to professionals and people with experience to navigate.

As for the AOL thing, I'm glad we agree :). As I said above to danhalen, its more nit-picky than anything else, but it does cause me to face-palm, and you'll understand why in my next paragraph.

You mentioned that you read reviews for the writer's personal experience. Well, I actually wrote a few articles professionally for MMOs.com. More specifically, I wrote a review of an MMO called Scarlet Blade, which I can best describe as "A sexually provocative form of entertainment with RPG and FPS tacked on". I can link you the article if you like. The reason I mention this is because I have actually done the exact same thing that Alexa has, and I know myself that what she wrote would be unacceptable there. Not because of what is being reviewed, but *how* it's being reviewed. For example, I could say "These steamy girls sure pack a punch" (which is a bit cliche I know, but I'm tired and can't remember specific example of the article :P), but I couldn't say "Damn, these girls are hot, I'd jack off to them all day". It's just not professional, and completely irrelevant.

On the other hand, my personal experience with other video games tells me whether the game I'm reviewing is good or not. Additionally, the way that I frame my personal experience speaks to my professionalism.

Do you see what I'm getting at?

Avatar image for dylostmyoldaccount
dylostmyoldaccount

@lakitel: it sounds like you have more experience than me with these articles and the sites they post on. Whether particular content was the norm for a site was not something I had considered, probably because I've gotten used to the majority of content being uninteresting (to me), & so the things I do read are quite disparate. I take your point too, about slippery slopes - perhaps I am less sensitive to this because I have not been responsible for articles or producing content? (in comparison to your experience with writing & I assume having to be accountable for that). Steamy girls eh? The game sounds terrible (literally, I'm not even being sarcastic - just judgemental). Do you mean you were told an article couldn't be published because you included sexual themes? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, perhaps I am naive as to what is and isn't thought to be acceptable on these kind of sites. I think I see what you mean - ?that you acknowledge your personal experience but avoid allusions to it in articles from a professional standard; and that influences how you view other writing? Again, maybe my lack of experience in this area is why I can tolerate it more.

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Dizzy1976

Who cares about the article.....get more joy out of reading the comments sections.