As it turns out, being an Instagram influencer is hard work — so difficult, in fact, that influencer Tiffany Mitchell, a lifestyle blogger based in Nashville, is accused of milking a recent motorcycle accident for clicks, BuzzFeed News reported Monday.
Mitchell, who has more than 212,000 followers on Instagram, shared a series of photos in July that depicted the aftermath of what was undoubtedly a very scary event. As Mitchell tells it, she was driving a motorcycle on a secluded two-lane highway near Leiper’s Fork, a small town in Tennessee, when she “misjudged a curve,” causing her to “hit the pavement” as her bike went off the road.
According to her Instagram caption, friend and professional photographer Lindsey Grace Whiddon happened to be snapping photos from a Jeep being driven alongside Mitchell. Whiddon kept taking photos after the accident, which left Mitchell with visible scrapes but (luckily) no serious injuries.
“I had my helmet on so my head was fine, but I scraped up my left side,” Mitchell wrote. “I was in absolute shock laying on the side of the road.”
Whiddon’s images depict Mitchell lying on the road and being cared for by an unidentified man.
Although many of Mitchell’s followers expressed their wishes for a speedy recovery, some naturally questioned why Whiddon would continue shooting in such an emergency scenario — and why Mitchell would later share them with an audience.
“This must have been super scary and I’m glad you’re okay, but… if my friend continued to take photos while I was lying semi-unconscious in the road, I’d be furious,” one Instagrammer wrote. “I love your photos but it’s a little weird to include those.”
Another photo of the scene showed a conspicuous bottle of Smartwater on the ground next to Mitchell, prompting additional accusations that the accident itself was co-opted as sponsored Instagram content — or even staged entirely.
Sponsored content is the “most common way for influencers to make money,” according to Scrunch, an influencer marketing platform. The Federal Trade Commission requires influencers to “clearly and conspicuously disclose their relationships to brands when promoting or endorsing products through social media.”
Smartwater told BuzzFeed News it did not have a partnership with Mitchell, who said someone gave her the bottle of water while she was resting.
Still, other commenters pointed out that the photos could be seen as trivializing the gravity of motorcycle accidents, which killed more than 5,000 people in 2017, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
“Huh? You had a serious accident but people were there to take *stunning* photos? This is an insult to people who get into accidents. Put a helmet on,” Instagram user pecenittogether wrote.
For her part, Mitchell has denied posing for the photos or otherwise using them for nefarious purposes, although she did archive her post after the slew of cynical responses.
“I didn’t know [Whiddon] was taking them, but later on when she showed them to me I was so grateful that she captured such an intense moment for me,” Mitchell told BuzzFeed News.
“Nothing about this was staged,” she added. “I’m sad that some people are taking it that way.”
We’re glad she’s OK, but at the very least, sharing the slick (and admittedly beautiful) photos of her accident was kind of a poor choice on Mitchell’s part. The optics alone should make her think twice before doing it again.