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'SighSwoon' merges self-care tips with hilarious memes on Instagram

By Harry Hill2019-05-12 14:00:00 UTC

Scrolling through @SighSwoon on Instagram is the equivalent of picking up a mysterious book at a thrift shop and falling into words that both enlighten and entertain.  

Gabi Abrao, a 24-year-old Los Angeles native, is the mind behind one of Instagram's shiniest hidden gems. SighSwoon showcases self-reflective memes and guides on how to feel things, whether it's simple pleasures or a broken heart. It’s a treasure trove of content tailored for millennials navigating creative lives. 

Sighswoon began in the summer of 2016, Abrao tells Mashable over email. Heartbreak and the desire to make some changes drove her toward the internet as a medium for creating and connecting with others, mainly through memes. With an ever-growing follower count of 62.3K, she's connected with a lot of people.

“When I share a realization online and see that thousands of people are going through the same thing, it makes me feel less alone, less hard on myself. I want people to feel this way too — understood, empowered,” Abrao explains. 

The artist uses her platform to offer a plethora of self-care tips, from how to sunbathe ("a secluded location where you can get as naked as possible") to the best ways to "shapeshift," a visualization practice for when you're uncentered. Reading her is kind of like speaking to a caring physician who knows exactly what ails you and then gives you the perfect prescription, free of charge. 

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Three years ago, following a mildly devastating heartbreak, I dragged my mattress and box spring to the very center of the room and said, “I am a lush, self-sustaining island“. I slept in the center of the room for three days. That weekend, I took myself to a local playhouse. A 20-seat theater, the space was tiny and intimate. I arrived alone in a long black dress and proceeded to watch a stubborn man fall in love with an alien. The play was incredible, surprising, I cried. Once home, I felt ready for the luxury of leaning on a wall and shoved my bed back up against it. . . Later, ready for guests and no longer isolating, I thought of myself as a castle in the desert. “Grand for itself, wise for itself,” I wrote in a poem. In this new form, I was rejecting the need for outside validation, especially that of romantic partners. I imagined myself made of stone that remained cool, even at the highest noon. I imagined myself as an abundant whimsical structure in an environment lacking of. Sturdy and welcoming and independent. “Grand when you arrive, grand when you leave,“ I added to the poem. . . In a meditation class in high school, our teacher told us to pick our place. My teacher, who did past life regression on dogs, said, “Pick a place to be in. Just sit there and listen. Make room for visits from animals, insects, spirits.“ I settled for a giant warm boulder in the sun, next to a free-flowing river, surrounded by woods. A buffalo visited me that day, my eyes closed in a classroom. When things are neutral, when things are good, when things are great, I am the boulder in the sun by the river. Or I am laying on it. . . The house cat reminds me to stretch my body and take time in the sun. The house cat makes me not feel guilty for napping too long or staring at the traffic outside. The house cat reminds me to give myself permission to relax and take it slow.

A post shared by GABI + MEMES (@sighswoon) on May 2, 2019 at 7:19pm PDT

With so much to do and see online today, it can be difficult to slow your scroll and ask yourself how you're feeling. Abrao's hyper-aware content offers a mirror with which followers can take a nice, long look at themselves. The focus falls on subjects like self-worth, illusions, success, and creativity. She utilizes extensive captions to explain specific ideas in depth — or even just to describe a sunset.  

“As a teenager, I used to do street art wheat paste posters around the city that said ‘sigh swoon sigh’ on them," Abrao says of her page’s unusual name. "It was a mini poem I made up and attached meaning to, and sharing it like that was a reason to run around and be bad. Years later, the phrase would come back around and feel like the most fitting title for what my page has become.”

The Sighswoon feed is aesthetically pleasing, everything kissed with a tint of beige. It's light and welcoming, which is exactly the way Abrao wanted it. She blames her fascination with the hue on her time spent at the beach: “I was renting a bed and a balcony in a living room for $500/month. The building’s stucco was beige, the cheap '90s carpet was beige, and the sand was beige. I think I just wanted to match everything.” 

“The cyborg in me recognizes the cyborg in you,” reads her bio, just above a link to her online store where she sells merch that features the saying on totes and sweatshirts. “It’s a claim to embracing the digital age,” Abrao explains, “the very human-meets-technology existence we all participate in, and are still wearily adapting to.” She admits that while it’s meant to be humorous, she also means it with her “whole heart." 

With just about three years of memeing under her (beige) belt, Abrao has figured out the formula for making a solid one.

“A good meme is funny, relatable, insightful, and healing. In that order. You should laugh, then feel connected to the creator or others who understand it, then experience some introspect, then leave with a healed feeling from those three processes,” she muses. Her delivery method varies as she utilizes many different meme formats. 

Occasionally, Abrao will post pictures of herself wearing interesting outfits made of neutral textiles and glowy silks. These portraits provide a face to the name (as well as maintaining her color-coded image). They also fuel fan encounters at her part-time book store gig: "A few times I have rung up a book, handed it to the person across the counter, and they’re just staring at me, and they say 'You make memes right?'"

Abrao just wants to help everyone chill out. "I aim for my page to be accessible, empowering, and soothing," she says. And she wants to keep it up for as long as possible. 

"I wish to continue my studies of the invisible and unseen — documenting my findings through paintings, writings, videos, memes, and other art forms," she says. Her end goal is literally out of this world: "I will operate a carousel in the desert some day, and I hope to re-spawn on another planet in my next life." 

In the midst of all the noise that is Instagram in 2019, Sighswoon provides a light-filled digital oasis, a faraway page that's easy to get lost on. Be careful, though. You might just walk away feeling refreshed and renewed. And with an affinity for beige. 

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