Tiffany Mitchell: When BuzzFeed Attacks

Nov 20, 2019

Our interview of Tiffany Mitchell for “The Creative Influencer” podcast is available today for download on iTunes, Spotify, and premier platforms everywhere.

Tiffany is an Instagram influencer based in Nashville. She was involved in a motorcycle accident and later posted about it on Instagram. A few weeks after her post BuzzFeed did a hit piece implying that she staged the accident and had an impromptu photo shoot for Smart Water.

Tiffany tells us about being accused of something she didn’t do and the personal impact. She also talks about her journey to become an influencer, and why she doesn’t like to call herself one.

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A transcript of the episode follows:

Jon:  I am joined today by Tiffany Mitchell. Welcome to the podcast.

Tiffany:  Thank you.

Jon:  You are a lifestyle blogger.

Tiffany:  Yes.

Jon:  And you're on Instagram.

Tiffany:  Yes.

Jon:  And you live in Nashville.

Tiffany:  Yes.

Jon:  But we're not recording this in Nashville, are we?

Tiffany:  Nope. We're in LA.

Jon:  And you were the recent subject of a hit piece by Buzzfeed, correct?

Tiffany:  Yes.

Jon:  And I want to talk to you about that. We'll come back to it.

Tiffany:  Yeah.

Jon:  But I want to kind of set the scene of who you are before we talk about the piece.

Tiffany:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jon:  Where are you from originally?

Tiffany:  I was born in New Jersey, raised there, and kind of bounced back to New York because my dad lived in New York. And then I lived in Long Island for a little bit before relocating to Kentucky about seven years ago.

Jon:  And then Kentucky to Nashville, how'd you get there?

Tiffany:  I was married when I left Long Island, and I moved to Kentucky with my ex-husband, and then we went through our divorce. In that process, there was a lot of difficult stuff going on in my life. I had had a miscarriage and my marriage was falling about. I had started to share about those things on Instagram as sort of a vulnerability and healing practice. Through that, I connected with some people in Nashville who were going through similar things. They invited me to come visit and I did, and I found this community that I really loved. So once my divorce was final, I moved to Nashville.

Jon:  Kentucky to Nashville.

Tiffany:  Yeah. Naturally, it just felt like I had to because of the community I found.

Jon:  What is your writing background?

Tiffany:  Writing?

Jon:  Writing.

Tiffany:  Gosh. I have really never... Journals, diaries. I never did it professionally. I always loved it, but it was never-

Jon:  So the ability to write, where did that come from?

Tiffany:  Practice, I guess. I just loved reading and using words to express things that I was feeling and just kind of writing them down or typing them down was always healing for me. It was always something I loved to do.

Jon:  You talked about a vulnerability practice when you started to write.

Tiffany:  Yeah.

Jon:  And share on Instagram.

Tiffany:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jon:  I went back and I looked. Your first Instagram post was June 2, 2012.

Tiffany:  Wow. I feel old.

Jon:  That was only seven years ago. That wasn't that long ago.

Tiffany:  I mean, seven years though, that's a long time to be doing the same thing on social media.

Jon:  And your first blog post... At least that was still up, was September 6, 2012. So just a couple months later.

Tiffany:  Yeah.

Jon:  Tell me about the moment that you started sharing on Instagram.

Tiffany:  The moment I started sharing, I was still married. I was still hoping that it could work out. I was really just trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life, like who I was. I had identified... I lost a lot of my identity to different things, especially that marriage. That relationship, I gave up a lot of the things that I enjoyed, like travel and creating things, art. I used to paint all the time, and I wasn't doing that anymore. I wasn't cooking or baking anymore, none of those things. I think going through the dark parts of that time in my life, I wanted to exhume those things and start practicing them again. So for me, starting to blog and starting to do Instagram was the act of practicing those things. It wasn't even necessarily intended to get out there. It was just the act of putting it out there that made me feel accountable to honor those things and continue.

Jon:  Almost a public journal.

Tiffany:  Exactly. It was yeah, a public journal. But honestly I remember at the time, I was so timid to admit to anybody that this is what I was doing, especially my family, that my first thought was, "If I really wanted to be courageous, I would put this on Facebook because my family would see it." But I was too timid to do that. I didn't want them to know. I was so shy, and for some reason there was so much shame and hiding for me, so I picked Instagram because I didn't think anyone would see it.

Jon:  The place to hide is Instagram! [Laughter]

Tiffany:  Exactly. I thought that... Yeah. [Laughter]

Jon:  Seven years has changed a lot on Instagram, too.

Tiffany:  It has changed a lot, yes.

Jon:  When did your family first find out that you were on Instagram?

Tiffany:  Oh goodness. Maybe just a few months later.

Jon:  Same with friends?

Tiffany:  No. Honestly, my friends knew about it pretty quick. Well, a couple of close friends knew about it quickly, because one of the girls that I started my blog with actually originally I went through first grade all the way through high school graduation with her. We were in each others' weddings and everything. She had moved to Chicago, and I was in Kentucky, and we're like, "What if we did the blogging thing together?" Sort of contributed to the same thing. So she knew about my Instagram from the beginning and was on that kind of vulnerability practice journey with me. So friends definitely knew about it right away, but my family found out a few months later, and I was still embarrassed. I'm trying to remember what that was like to be embarrassed to share stuff, because I've been doing it now for years.

Jon:  Seven years.

Tiffany:  Yeah. They were supportive. I was so afraid for no reason. There were real reasons within myself, but nobody really gave me a reason to be ashamed of any of the things I was doing. It was just all in my head.

Jon:  And the vulnerability practice, where did you get the idea for that?

Tiffany:  I guess it's my personality type. I always find the most healing and growth and freedom when I'm sharing. I'm a seven on the Enneagram--connecting with people is very life-giving to me. So the idea of expressing all these thoughts and desires and dreams and sorrows and everything in just the private context of a journal that I keep under my bed, like keeping all my paintings and these sketchbooks that are just under my bed. That, to me, would never be as healing as putting it out there and opening myself up to connect with other people over them.

Jon:  Now, on your early posts, there were a lot of fashion drawings.

Tiffany:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jon:  That kind of thing. It's shifted over the years?

Tiffany:  Yeah. I mean, I still do that. I still do the fashion illustrations. I've been doing that since I was little. But that's just one example, like one of the creative outlets that doing it and sharing it is healing. It's not vulnerability in terms of I'm admitting this deep, dark thing, but creating anything is vulnerable.

Jon:  So when are you going to come out with a fashion line?

Tiffany:  Oh gosh. As soon as someone wants to make it for me. [Laughter] I'll design it. I just need someone to produce it.

Jon:  And not only did the content change over time, but the color schemes have changed over time.

Tiffany:  Yeah. I've definitely learned more about editing and styling. Those are all things that bring so much joy. I love doing all of that. Having a cohesive feed, it's like obviously it's not something that somebody needs to do in order to have a good Instagram. It's just my personal... I love having that flow of color and consistency. Yeah.

Jon:  And then, I had read where you processed the trauma that's gone on in your life. You've now shared it on Instagram?

Tiffany:  Yeah. Which trauma?

Jon:  Well, I'm going to start with-

Tiffany:  All of them? [Laughter]

Jon:  All of them. Start with the miscarriage?

Tiffany:  Yeah. Yeah. I remember being kind of embarrassed to open up about that one for a while. The first time I shared about that, it was almost like... The reason why I call it vulnerability practice is because at first, I was just so timid to share anything. It's like I'm going to start by talking about this recipe that I want to make. And that almost gave me enough courage to move into I'm going to admit this other thing about myself and I'm going to admit... It was all about admitting things about myself, building up to the point where I could say, "All right, guys, I'm ready to write about the fact that I had a miscarriage and I'm scared and I'm sitting here sweating as I'm typing this, but I need to talk about it because it's significant in my life and I feel like if I put it out there, maybe someone else out there who's been through it can connect with me and they can heal me and I can heal them." So the first time I opened up about that was maybe a couple years after it happened.

Jon:  And then what was the reaction?

Tiffany:  Amazing. Wonderful. I had no idea how common it was. I had no idea. I felt, keeping it to myself made me feel so isolated like I was the only one in the world that had ever gone through it and there was something wrong with me. But when I shared about it, people wrote to me and I was like, "Oh my goodness. I am really not alone." And then other people were saying the same thing like, "I thought I was alone." "I thought I was alone." And all of a sudden there's like a million people... Not a million, but yeah.

Jon:  You're finding each other.

Tiffany:  Yeah, we're finding each other and realizing how not alone we are. That, in and of itself was so healing and beautiful. After that I was like, "This is important. I need to be sharing these things in the most responsible way that I can." But also, I don't want to only share things that are neat and tidy after the fact like, "Oh, I went through this and I'm better now." I want it to be in process. I want it to be the raw part where the healing is necessary.

Jon:  And you also share about your divorce?

Tiffany:  Yes. Not that much, because I didn't want to disrespect my ex-husband at all. But...

Jon:  Statistically, you know you're not alone.

Tiffany:  Yes. Yes, absolutely. Honestly, that's part of why I loved the community I found in Nashville so much, because it was a group of women that had also been through divorce that were not man-hating on a rampage against the exes. It was like, "This is a hard season, but we're going to come together. We're going to create things together. We're going to come up alongside each other, move forward, and create something beautiful." That was a really wonderful experience, and it informed a lot of the way that I handled trauma, too. Just always looking forward and building something new, connecting with people, not taking negativity and grudge.

Jon:  So the online part of your life has actually helped the offline part of your life?

Tiffany:  Oh 100%. That's what it was always meant for. Yeah. Absolutely.

Jon:  I'm going to shift gears.

Tiffany:  Yeah.

Jon:  When did you start riding a motorcycle?

Tiffany:  I started riding motorcycle four years ago, four and a half years ago.

Jon:  How does one just say, "I'm going to start riding a motorcycle."?

Tiffany:  Oh, well my mom rode my whole life. My mom had a Honda Shadow when I was little, and she would put us... Well, put me in a helmet, I would ride on the back of her bike. So I was always like, "Wow, cool. Yeah."

Jon:  Around them.

Tiffany:  "Yeah, I want a motorcycle." And my dream was to someday ride with my mom. So when I moved out to Tennessee it was like, "Oh, there's all these beautiful back roads. Maybe it's time." So I went and took the safety course and got my license.

Jon:  It's not like splitting lanes on the 405.

Tiffany:  No. No, oh my gosh no. Because my mom is the inspiration for my riding, and she's the safety stickler. Yeah, she's a very, very safe rider.

Jon:  So you start riding.

Tiffany:  Yes.

Jon:  And I now take you to July 27th of this year.

Tiffany:  Yes.

Jon:  You were involved in an accident.

Tiffany:  Yes.

Jon:  I can see you tense up already...

Tiffany:  Oh, gosh yeah.

Jon:  ...The minute I start saying this.

Tiffany:  Yes.

Jon:  Where did the accident happen?

Tiffany:  It was just outside Lepers Fork, Tennessee.

Jon:  Where is that?

Tiffany:  It's about 45 minutes away from Nashville.

Jon:  Do you live in Nashville?

Tiffany:  I live in Nashville, yes. So my friend Lindsay, who's a photographer... Honestly, in Nashville it's very easy to come by photographers and musicians. Everyone does one or the other or both.

Jon:  Kind of like actors out here.

Tiffany:  Yeah, exactly. So a lot of my friends, especially because of what I do, are in the same field. So it's not uncommon for all of us to go out, and we're all photographers and we're doing this or that. But Lindsay is... She just loves capturing all the time. She's got her camera with her all the time. We'll go to a friends gathering... We went to Fourth of July, and everyone's partying and doing fireworks and all this stuff, and Lindsay's just on the fringes with her camera.

Jon:  Taking photos.

Tiffany:  Capturing just candidly. She's really good at it. So anyway, we've done a few shoots together, both professionally and personally, and she had been wanting to do a motorcycle shoot, specifically. She rides. She loves the fact that I ride. She's like, "Tiffany, we have to finally make this happen." So we made a plan to do a personal riding day that she was going to document. Me and my friend Martin were on the bikes, and then Lindsay had the camera. Her friend Jen was driving the Jeep, so they were kind of shooting us while we were riding. We've stopped at a few places in Lepers Fork and posed with the bikes and things like that, and then we were riding back when the accident happened.

Jon:  It sounds even ridiculous to ask the question this way, but I'm going to ask it, did you plan the accident?

Tiffany:  Ugh, no. No.

Jon:  How did it happen?

Tiffany:  Me and Martin were riding behind the Jeep, and we were on these little side roads. It was kind of sunset hour, and Lindsay was shooting out of the back of the Jeep at us. We got onto this secluded road, pulled off onto this little side road, and the speed limit must have been like 25 mph. Lindsay pulled the Jeep to the side so that I could pass her so that she could just shoot Martin riding behind. So we were going pretty slow at that point. I passed Lindsay so I'm riding in front of everybody. Then there was this curve in the road and I misjudged... It looked like a pretty wide, pretty gradual curve, but as I was taking it, I realized it was a lot sharper than I thought.

Tiffany:  There was no guardrail or anything. It was just a little dip from the pavement into the grass, and then a fence like 20 feet away. When my bike went off the road into the grass, I lost control of it. I panicked and used my front brake, and the brakes were out of sync. I ended up falling to the left and hit the pavement on my left shoulder and hip, and the bike landed on its left side and slid through the grass. So the bike hit the grass, I hit the pavement. I rolled a couple times and landed on my right side, and that was when... I mean, they were right behind me, so they pulled up immediately and were at my side just making sure I was okay. Martin came and he was checking on me.

Tiffany:  That moment is a blur because I was panicking. I was in full-on panic, trauma mode because I had lost someone in an accident three years prior, and that processing-

Jon:  Lost in a motorcycle accident?

Tiffany:  Yeah, three years ago. So processing the trauma and grief of having been through that, this was--my accident was minor. I was going maybe 25 mph. I had my helmet on, boots on, jeans on. I got skinned up on my shoulder and my elbow because I had a tank top on. It was like 95 degrees that day. It was crazy hot. But the injuries were painful but minor. So I wasn't panicking because I thought I might die.

Jon:  Right.

Tiffany:  All of it combined, it was very intense. I was in shock, basically. I was in shock. Yeah.

Jon:  And did an ambulance come?

Tiffany:  Yes.

Jon:  Did they check you out?

Tiffany:  Yes.

Jon:  Did they take you away?

Tiffany:  No. A couple people pulled over to help, and I think one of them called the ambulance, and then they showed up pretty quickly. I don't really remember how much time. It felt quick, but I was also in shock so I don't know. I went into the ambulance and checked my pulse and checked my injuries and they cleaned me up, bandaged me up, asked me a bunch of questions to make sure that I was not out of my mind, I guess, like with a concussion. I didn't recall losing consciousness. My pupils were dilating properly. But they did say that I would have to go back to the ER with them in order for them to officially clear me of any concussion. But I didn't want to go back to the ER. I felt okay. I just wanted to be with my friends and get home. At that point, my bike was useless, and obviously I wasn't in a state to be riding it anyway, even if it was still functioning.

Jon:  How did your bike get home?

Tiffany:  One of the people that pulled up behind us was this guy who had been riding with his wife. They were on a motorcycle. He pulled over. He's actually the one that brought me the water. He carries water with him on his bike, so he's the one that placed the water bottle next to my head.

Jon:  Smart water.

Tiffany:  Yeah. In case I wanted it so I could reach it, it was right there. He went back to his house and got his truck and came back and loaded my bike onto his truck and drove back to Nashville so that I could get the bike home.

Jon:  Just like that.

Tiffany:  He just pulled it into my garage for me. Yeah.

Jon:  While you were on the ground.

Tiffany:  Yeah.

Jon:  Lindsay was taking photos?

Tiffany:  Yes.

Jon:  Did you ask her to take photos?

Tiffany:  No.

Jon:  Did you know she was taking photos?

Tiffany:  No. No. I was not in a state of mind to be aware of anything really that was happening, other than-

Jon:  When did you find out that she had been taking photos?

Tiffany:  We were back at my house, because I didn't ride back with them. There was no room in Lindsay's Jeep, Martin was on his bike, Lindsay and Jen were in the Jeep. I rode back with JD, the guy that pulled over... The guy that hauled my bike for me.

Jon:  Put it on the truck.

Tiffany:  Yeah. So I was in the car with them. It was when we were back at my house. We were all kind of... I was very sore. We were all sitting on the side patio of my house, and Lindsay was like, "I want to show you some of these photos I captured." I could tell that she didn't know how I would react.

Jon:  React.

Tiffany:  Seeing them. She was very sensitive about it, but as I'm scrolling through them, I was like, "Oh my God." I was so grateful that she captured. When you're going through, everyone's different. I'm one of those people that really appreciates when something like that, because I don't really remember all of what was happening, so being able to see that was really powerful for me. Seeing the way that Martin was there for me and understanding that Lindsay, my friend, who knows what I've been through, believed that that moment was valuable enough to capture the way that she captures things. It all just... It meant a lot to me. So I found out later, maybe an hour after?

Jon:  That she'd photographed it.

Tiffany:  Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Jon:  I skipped it, but did the police come?

Tiffany:  Yes. Yeah. I don't remember if they... I think they got there before the ambulance? I think they did. But yeah, they were just there taking a report. They wanted to know exactly what happened, what damage was done to the bike. I remember them asking me if I wanted to make any kind of insurance claim for the bike. There was something they asked me about the bike, and I was like, "Eh, no." I just wasn't really processing things that accurately in the moment, but yeah. Police were definitely there.

Jon:  So you're seeing the photos an hour later.

Tiffany:  Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jon:  When did your friend share them with you so you could share them?

Tiffany:  I think it was the next day she uploaded them to this thing where you can share the link and then download the ones that you want. I think that was the next day. Yeah.

Jon:  Then eventually you did an Instagram post about the accident?

Tiffany:  Yes.

Jon:  How long after the accident was the post?

Tiffany:  I think it was a few days later. I know I posted on my Instagram stories the next day... Did I? Honestly, I don't remember how many days after it was. Maybe three or four.

Jon:  Did you hashtag anything?

Tiffany:  No.

Jon:  Did you tag anything?

Tiffany:  Just the friends that were there and the strangers that came to help.

Jon:  Was your idea to share it with the people outside of your community?

Tiffany:  No. No. It was meant... This is another interesting thing. My Instagram has been shrinking for a while. With the algorithms and everything, fewer and fewer and fewer people are actually seeing my posts. The ones that see them have been ones that are actively engaging with me on a regular basis. So when I shared this and didn't use any hashtags and didn't do anything to promote it or anything like that, genuinely it felt like a very closed group of people that were going to actually see it.

Jon:  What was the initial reaction?

Tiffany:  Wonderful. It was like, "Oh my gosh. These are beautiful. Wow. I'm so sorry that happened. What did this bring up for you?" Everybody who was commenting initially knew what had happened and why it meant so much to me.

Jon:  So just to set the timeline again.

Tiffany:  Yeah.

Jon:  The accident was July 27th.

Tiffany:  Yes. Can we look at the date on the post?

Jon:  I actually have that.

Tiffany:  Oh, okay. Okay.

Jon:  The date of the post, you archived it, so I'm not sure.

Tiffany:  Oh, I can...

Jon:  Yeah, let's check it.

Tiffany:  Okay, I'm going to check it.

Jon:  Okay. While you're doing that, then on August 19th you received an email from Buzzfeed.

Tiffany:  Yes, I did.

Jon:  What time of day was that?

Tiffany:  It was July 31st, by the way was the post.

Jon:  The post, July 31st?

Tiffany:  July 31st. What time of day was Buzzfeed email? It was 10am.

Jon:  10am?

Tiffany:  It was like 10am on August 19th.

Jon:  The email had four questions.

Tiffany:  Yeah.

Jon:  Because I've seen it. You've shared that with me.

Tiffany:  Yes.

Jon:  The first question was, "Why/how did this scary accident become a photo shoot?"

Tiffany:  Yeah.

Jon:  Was that the first time anybody had used the words photo shoot?

Tiffany:  That morning I had gotten a very strange burst of negative activity in the comments on that post.

Jon:  Do you have any idea where that came from?

Tiffany:  I had no idea. I had no idea. The post had been... It was 2-3 weeks past, so usually older posts don't really get activity. After two days they're really done getting activity. So the burst of activity was weird. And the fact that it was so negative and accusatory, they were talking about how disgusting it was that someone took photos of that and how disgusting I was for faking an accident and using it to promote Smart Water. It was very weird and negative all of the sudden.

Jon:  Just so we get this out of the way.

Tiffany:  Yeah.

Jon:  Did you have a brand deal with Smart Water to place that by the accident?

Tiffany:  No. I can't even... Why would... Let's say I was a despicable person, why would Smart Water do that?

Jon:  That's a whole different issue.

Tiffany:  Exactly. That's what I mean. I just can't-

Jon:  A brand wouldn't.

Tiffany:  I can't comprehend any aspect of that at all.

Jon:  How did you respond to BuzzFeed's email?

Tiffany:  I was worried. I was very confused, and I told them that. I said, "I'm not really sure what's going on here, but this post had a very positive response. This negativity, that just started an hour ago, so I'm not really sure what's going on, but here's the story of what happened. I told them everything I told you just now, basically. I asked them to please not do a story about this casting it in a negative light or playing up any of those accusations, because that wasn't true at all. And I didn't want something that meant so much to me to be exposed to the rest of the world that way. I didn't want to be introduced to God knows how many strangers in that context. I asked them to please help me understand what was going on.

Jon:  And that same day the article came out, correct?

Tiffany:  Yes, within a few hours.

Jon:  And I'm going to read you the headline.

Tiffany:  Yeah.

Jon:  Like you don't know what it is. But I'm just going to read it anyway. An influencer is defending her decision to post a 'photo shoot' of her motorcycle accident on Instagram. Then the sub-headline is Nashville-based lifestyle blogger, Tiffany Mitchell denies her mid-accident 'photo shoot' was staged or sponsored. Then the first line of the article, "A lifestyle blogger based in Nashville is answering to critics who questioned why she turned her scary motorcycle accident into an impromptu 'photo shoot'."

Tiffany:  Oh my goodness, yeah.

Jon:  Okay, so the first three sections, photo shoot, photo shoot, photo shoot.

Tiffany:  Yeah.

Jon:  Was it a photo shoot?

Tiffany:  No.

Jon:  Did you pose for it in any way?

Tiffany:  No.

Jon:  Did you... Were you positioned in any way?

Tiffany:  No.

Jon:  Were there lights set up in any way?

Tiffany:  No.

Jon:  How does it make you feel that the reporter would say something like that?

Tiffany:  Horrible. It's devastating. It's like I can't even comprehend how someone would do that. What was happening, what was happening in reality, it would have been completely impossible for me. I didn't the presence of mind. I was in shock. I was dealing with things so much more important than thinking about Instagram content. You know? This was a real life, real intense, terrifying trauma experience. This was not in any way... It couldn't have been farther from my mind to do any of those things. Having to rewind all the way back, go back to the moment and try to even respond to questions like that, it's like...

Jon:  After BuzzFeed ran that article, what happened to the comments on your site?

Tiffany:  Absolute flood of hatred. Absolute flood of hatred. There were people that came and watched the stories that I posted, explaining the whole account of what happened, and some of those people said, "Oh my goodness. I'm so sorry that this is being painted the way that it's being painted. I believe you. You shouldn't have to defend yourself. I hate the fact... So there was a lot of support, but...

Jon:  There was a lot of negative, too.

Tiffany:  But a flood of negative. Just really vile, vile things that I can't even... The fact that people would reach out to a stranger and say some of the things that were being said, I can't comprehend that, either.

Jon:  What kind of things were said?

Tiffany:  Death threats, people saying that I deserve to die, people saying that I should kill myself, a lot of people telling me about trauma that they'd be through, losing someone, losing a relative, being in their own accident and then shaming me for exploiting something that is real in their life.

Jon:  Because they thought the SmartWater bottle was placed there and it was a product placement.

Tiffany:  They thought it was an advertisement, yeah. A lot of people thought that.

Jon:  Nevermind there would have had to have been a #ad had you been following the law.

Tiffany:  Yes. Yeah, and every sponsored post that is on my feed, there is a hashtag disclosure for the partnerships that I'm in. I do this professionally as well, so I take that very seriously, and I have consistently since I started doing any brand campaigns. Yeah, there was no hashtag. There was no brand tag.

Jon:  Now, this interview is about a month after the BuzzFeed article dropped.

Tiffany:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jon:  How are you feeling now about it?

Tiffany:  Honestly, I'm still really sad and kind of uncertain about how to navigate through this because it keeps getting picked up. It'll die down and I'll think it's over, and then something else will happen. Someone else will repeat it and say something awful, and then their followers come. Their readers come. The hatred just comes in waves.

Jon:  How has your community reacted?

Tiffany:  Very supportive. Very kind, compassionate, they're really sorry that this is happening. And a lot of people are just telling me, "Don't listen to any of it. Anybody that would reach out and say hateful things, it's just not worth your time to even consider it." But that's hard. It's just hard.

Jon:  Before the article, on a 1 to 10 scale for criticism, 10 being a little criticism really bothers you, 1 being eh, say whatever you want.

Tiffany:  Yeah.

Jon:  Where were you on the 1 to 10 scale? Again, before the article.

Tiffany:  Three before the article. I mean, criticism... I've always benefited from criticism. I think it's how you grow. I don't want to just be patted on the back and tell me what I want to hear. Never. No, I'm not that kind of person. So criticism is always valuable. Even if it's coming from a bad place, you just have to learn how to filter it and handle it, but there's always something to learn somewhere. And if someone's completely wrong you just move on. So yeah, I have a pretty high tolerance for criticism. But this was different. This didn't feel like criticism. It felt like just full-on hatred, blind hatred. No interest in the real story, no interest in what really happened. People that were so committed to hating me because of something they read that, even with video of the injuries, even with a police report, medical records from the ambulance, my full story.

Tiffany:  That guy who brought me the water writing a statement about it saying, "That was my water. I had it on my bike. I put it by her head so she could reach it." Nobody cared. They didn't care. They just wanted to be upset. So that to me isn't criticism as much as it is just blind hatred. That, I don't know how to handle.

Jon:  Where do you think that comes from?

Tiffany:  There was an interview that I did with Forbes about this, and they were mentioning the whole, "Do it for the Graham" culture where Influencers, or anyone with a large following, is willing to fake anything in order to get views or whatever. I see it. I see that that happens. So I think people might be so afraid of being tricked that their lack of interest in the true story is just their commitment to, "You're a liar. You're a liar. Everything you say is a lie. The police report is fake. The wounds that you're claiming are on your shoulder, that's just make-up." It's like people are so afraid of being tricked that they will just...

Jon:  Just go negative right away.

Tiffany:  Absolutely. I mean, I guess that's where it's coming from.

Jon:  Yeah, and this is going to be a follow-up minisode episode, but your brother did a rant/bit.

Tiffany:  Yeah. He did it. My brother is a brilliant writer/actor/comedian, and when he found out what happened, he hadn't seen any of it, and I FaceTimed him one day and was like, "Chris, have you heard about what's been happening?" He's like, "No." I told him the whole thing. He got so upset. When he gets upset, he gets hyper-intelligent and starts doing monologues. He did this while we were on FaceTime, and I was laughing so hard. I was like, "Chris, can you please do me a favor? I wish I was recording this. Can you record yourself doing that kind of rant and send it to me? It will help me so much." So the next day, he sent me this recording of himself. It was amazing. It was about his anger towards this click-bait journalism culture where there's basically these massive media outlets that are bullies, that start rumors. They kind of act like their all hands-off like, "I'm going to put this rumor out there and see what people think."

Tiffany:  They know that people are going to get angry. They know people want to be angry and they want to attack, so they're setting them loose on whoever the rumor's about, and nobody asks questions. So his rant was basically about how journalism used to be this... There used to be this integrity in order to earn readers and...

Jon:  Just warning in advance, the rant will come with an adult language warning.

Tiffany:  Yes. Yeah, yeah. He has his own style. I don't want to be responsible for anything he said. He does go off out of bounds a little bit at a couple points.

Jon:  Well, it will have a warning.

Tiffany:  Yeah.

Jon:  Shifting gears.

Tiffany:  Yeah.

Jon:  Do you consider yourself to be an influencer?

Tiffany:  I hate that word so much. I know that technically, careerwise, I would be put in that category. But the reason I hate it is because I think it kind of makes the concept of having influence exclusive to people with a social media following, and I don't believe that at all. I believe that, if you smile at someone in the grocery store, you're an influencer. So I don't like the way it's been designated to people with numbers. I hate that. So technically yes, personally no.

Jon:  Two more questions.

Tiffany:  Yes.

Jon:  What's ahead for you?

Tiffany:  More sharing. I guess navigating out of this process. I guess pulling as much value as I can from it. I've learned a lot, and I will not stop sharing. I won't stop writing. It's going to continue to be the vulnerability practice it always has been, but I think I realize how much more important it is now, given that people seemed so much more willing to believe lies and to act hatefully than to believe that real vulnerability exists still in this space of social media. I want to be a part of that being more normal, and I want to be a part of shifting it. I just want to shift it if I can.

Jon:  And where could people find you on the internet?

Tiffany:  My Instagram.

Jon:  Which is?

Tiffany:  Tifforelie. T-I-F-F-O-R-E-L-I-E.

Jon:  And your blog?

Tiffany:  Tifforelie.com

Jon:  Thank you.

Tiffany:  Yeah. Thank you.

Jon:  It's been a pleasure.


The Creative Influencer is a weekly podcast where we discuss all things creative with an emphasis on Influencers. It is hosted by Jon Pfeiffer, an entertainment attorney in Santa Monica, California.  Jon interviews influencers, creatives and the professionals who work with them.

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