The Cult Of Worse-onality

Social media’s race to the bottom of the bucket.

Steve QJ
4 min readJul 31, 2022
Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Staff / Getty Images

I suspect that a lot of strange things can happen if you put enough crabs in a bucket. But as far as I know, only one of them has a name.

The “crab-bucket effect" refers to the phenomenon where a consortium of crabs grab hold of any potential escapees and pull them back down into the bucket (yes, I’m also only just learning that “consortium” is the collective noun for crabs).

So while an individual crab could escape quite easily, a bucketful is doomed to end up as crab sticks.

But, it turns out, the crabs aren’t deliberately sabotaging each other. They’re just acting on an instinct that, under different circumstances, might even save their lives. Here’s how Dr Loretta Breuning explains it:

Crabs did not evolve in buckets. They evolved on seashores, where clinging to others promoted survival. A crab is not consciously trying to hold back its mates. It is not consciously trying to save them either. It is just repeating a behaviour that was naturally selected for.

The crabs aren’t trying to sabotage each other when they drag each other down. They aren’t trying to save each other when they cling to each other on the seashore.



Steve QJ

Race. Politics. Culture. Sometimes other things. Almost always polite. Find more at