a surgeon holding a kidney

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This week on the internet: The ‘kidney person’ discourse, explained

Plus: A wellness influencer gets mocked for an anti-vax tweet.


Tiffany Kelly

Internet Culture

Published Oct 8, 2021   Updated Oct 13, 2021, 10:44 am CDT

Welcome to the Friday edition of Internet Insider, where we dissect the week online. Today:

  • The discourse surrounding ‘kidney person’
  • Yoga influencer says she’ll stop seeing vaccinated clients

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‘Kidney person’ left Twitter wanting more tales of petty drama

A viral New York Times Magazine feature hit the internet on Tuesday, immediately turning a woman dubbed “kidney person” into a Twitter main character. The story, in case you’ve managed to avoid it so far, details the years-long drama between two writers.

Dawn Dorland, who is white, claims that an acquaintance lifted her Facebook post about donating her kidney and used it as the basis for a short story. Sonya Larson, a mixed-race Asian American woman, wrote The Kindest, which is about an Asian American woman who receives a kidney donation from a white, entitled woman. Larson says that she was “inspired” by Dorland’s real-life kidney donation, but that her art is her own. They ended up taking each other to court over the dispute. 

The story, titled “Who is the Bad Art Friend?”, is dramatic enough on its own to warrant Twitter discussion, but what really put it over the top was the quotes from group chats and email threads revealed during the discovery phase of litigation. Yes, the Times published gossip from a group chat. It’s both great and terrifying. Sure, everyone wants to read other people’s group chats—especially if there’s drama—but no one wants their own group chats printed in a publication.

In the text messages obtained by the Times, Larson apparently told two friends that an early draft of the story she was working on “literally has sentences that I verbatim grabbed from Dawn’s letter on FB. I’ve tried to change it but I can’t seem to—that letter was just too damn good.” The texts left Literary Twitter spiraling.

“If we all have to go back talking on the telephone because group chat drama can be subpoenaed I will never forgive any of you,” wrote Danielle Evans on Twitter. 

“The possibility of entering the group chats into discovery should terrify all of us!!!!!” echoed Jacqui Shine

The Times’ feature also led to multiple, separate words and phrases to trend on Twitter. Most notably was “kidney person” or “kidney friend,” but people also referred to the story as “bad art friend.” Separately, “subpoena my group chat” turned into a meme that only people who read the story understood. All of this is to say: The story was like catnip to extremely online people. 

Dorland has not publicly commented on the story since its publication (She did, however, send a long list of corrections and comments to Gawker.) Larson has a private Twitter account, but she posted information on her personal website, including where to find The Kindest and a link to a video conversation “to learn how this story functions racially.” Several people on Twitter referred to Dorland as a “Karen and said that it was another example of a white woman weaponizing her tears.

Celeste Ng, the author of Little Fires Everywhere who is quoted in the “Bad Art Friend” piece, revealed on Twitter that “it was Dawn, not Sonya, who pitched the piece and pushed it to happen. And subpoenaed all those emails. I feel deeply sad about all of this.” (We reached out to the author of the article via email to confirm this claim but did not immediately hear back.)

Overall, the Times story made people want more stories of petty drama between two people who are not public figures. To that, I say: Just look at the “Am I the Asshole?” subreddit.

—Tiffany Kelly, culture editor

Megan Reyes in front of a car door


Megan Reyes wants you to demand diverse voices in sports—on a T-shirt

“More Female. Black. Latinx. Indigenous. Asian. LGBTQ+ Voices in Sports.” It is a simple shirt but a bold message. And it’s changing minds. Now, Reyes is partnering with professional sports teams like the Los Angeles Chargers and industry bigwigs like Fox Sports Radio’s Joy Taylor to manifest her dream of more diverse voices in sports.

Presented by Rhoden’s Road Trip, a part of the Undefeated on ESPN+ Black History Always Collection.



Yoga influencer says she’ll stop seeing vaccinated clients, sparking debate

There’s an amazing array of anti-vax sentiment out there, ranging from Trump Republicans who think COVID-19 is a hoax, to conspiratorial wellness advisers who disapprove of putting “chemicals” in your body. And let’s not forget the people who think the vaccine will make your body magnetic.

This week on Twitter, a Kundalini yogi sparked debate with a particularly bizarre complaint about vaccination: It supposedly gives her clients a new (and negative) “energetic imprint.”

With almost 44,000 Twitter followers, Philadelphia yogi Godis Oyá posts prolifically about spirituality, wellness, and the alleged perils of vaccination. One particular tweet caught people’s attention because she suggested that she might stop accepting vaccinated clients. This comment quickly drew mockery and ire.

Read the full story here.

—Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, staff writer


Even the Squid Game memes are referencing kidney person:

Now Playing: 🎶  “Working for the Knife” by Mitski 🎶

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*First Published: Oct 8, 2021, 10:45 am CDT