On November 13, The McGill Daily sat down with Claire Downie and Ben Boehlert, two of the moderators of the secret Facebook group “Poll Party.” They gave us some insight into the group, which now boasts over 19,000 members and has more than 50 offshoots, including the “McGill University Poll Party.”
The McGill Daily (MD): How did “Poll Party” start and where did the name come from?
Ben Boehlert: Most of this is the genius of Grace Gorant, I believe.
Claire Downie: She started it mid-2016, and I have no idea where the name came from, it’s just cute.
Ben Boehlert: It’s a pretty clever name, I think she started it in science class.
Claire Downie: It was like 10 of our friends for a while, and then people just started getting added.
Ben Boehlert: That’s when Claire added me, I was one of the first 20.
MD: And this was started at Montclair High School?
Claire Downie: Yes, in New Jersey, our alma mater.
MD: What does it mean to be a moderator? How are rules such as “No repeat polls” and “No political polls” enforced?
Ben Boehlert: We use a group chat that is active twice a day.
Claire Downie: Sometimes it’s more, sometimes less. There’s a handful of us at McGill.
Ben Boehlert: We also discuss other life things. It’s a pretty supportive group chat, and like, “Poll Party” hasn’t been too much to manage.
Claire Downie: There’s definitely been waves where its been worse to manage than other times, but the flock takes care of itself.
Ben Boehlert: Originally when it was just Montclair, the rules weren’t super particular, like you could make political polls and stuff. The problem is now, since it’s so big, there are no longer social consequences and social enforcement to being ridiculous. So we need a more bureaucratic and law-based system to say what stays and what doesn’t, because it’s too big for us to just socially enforce. I think we’ve grown to take the group less seriously which has made moderating it far easier, or at least I know I have.
Claire Downie: When there were 100 people in the group it was way easier to tell what was a repeat and what wasn’t and now I just have no idea.
Ben Boehlert: Yeah, but like it’s a bit more of a joke now. I don’t know, I used to care more about the rules, but it’s become a much more enjoyable experience and [you get] much better at moderating once you realize it’s all a big joke. It’s one big bit.
Claire Downie: I’ll be in class, I’ll be scrolling through Facebook, I’ll see something that’s not right, and I’ll screenshot it and message the [moderator] chat and say this doesn’t look right.
Ben Boehlert: We used to have a problem where we had too many [moderators] so people would just watch from the sidelines and do nothing. Now it’s just 13 moderators.
It’s one big bit.
MD: Was the “Survey Soiree” name change a big issue for you guys on the moderator side?
Claire Downie: It was never meant to be long.
Ben Boehlert: [Grace] originally jokingly said “what if I change it for a day?” and then Facebook said you have to keep it for 28 days and she was like “whatever sure,” and then [Facebook] wouldn’t let us change it back.
Claire Downie: We think someone found out that Grace had wanted to change it back for a while, and had some connection at Facebook.
Ben Boehlert: They worked for Facebook, I think? So they said “we’ll see what we can do” then two weeks later it was changed. We don’t know if that’s the causal mechanism for it, but it’s an idea.
Claire Downie: Yeah, Facebook does not reply to any of my other complaints.
Ben Boehlert: I know multiple people in real life asked me about it like “why the name change” and “can you change it back” and then people were upset but honestly my thing is, it was the most exciting thing to happen to the group in months. Nothing was going on, there weren’t that many interesting polls.
Claire Downie: But then I got annoyed with people being annoyed after a while.
Ben Boehlert: I started calling it “Poll Party” as a joke and then I said that to the moderator’s chat and Grace kicked me [out of the chat] for like six hours.
MD: How do you think that this got so popular to currently have 19,000 members and growing?
Claire Downie: I mean it just makes sense when you think about it. Someone adds someone, who adds someone, who adds someone. It’s like a pyramid scheme, or the spread of a disease.
Someone adds someone, who adds someone, who adds someone. It’s like a pyramid scheme, or the spread of a disease.
MD: How do you think your specific friend group opened it up to so many new people?
Ben Boehlert: It’s generally my experience that Montclair people are everywhere.
Claire Downie: There are 10 of us at [McGill], maybe more. The year after it was started everyone went to college. So, I mean, you’re meeting people and you want a way to break the ice with them.
Ben Boehlert: And I think Grace branded it well, the cover photo is pretty spectacular.
Claire Downie: It is, its very “graphic design is my passion,” which she was really into.
MD: What is the worst offshoot of “Poll Party?”
Claire Downie: “2 Hole 2 Party.”
Ben Boehlert: Easy, no, “Poll Party Uncensored,” absolutely. “Poll Party Uncensored” is the worst place in the world.
Claire Downie: So is “2 Hole 2 Party.”
Ben Boehlert: Yeah, but there’s like, it’s not like filled with white supremacists like “Poll Party Uncensored.” We have no affiliation at all with “Poll Party Uncensored.”
Claire Downie: It’s like watching someone try to get up after slipping on the ice.
Ben Boehlert: “The Goblin-Specific Poll Party for Goblins and Goblin-Enthusiasts” and “Poll Party you only post in while drunk,” are my favorite ones to post in.
Claire Downie: I like the “ur Poll gay lol” one too.
MD: What happened with “Poll Party Uncensored?” How did that split off? Were people just mad about the moderation?
Ben Boehlert: Yes.
Claire Downie: I have to assume.
Ben Boehlert: We used to get called fascists more often. It has largely, as a trend, gone away. I think all the people who wanted to call us fascists left.
Claire Downie: It was probably someone who tried to post a poll “can ‘x’ group say the n-word?”
Ben Boehlert: It’s just sad. Like if they left 4chan up and made it about polls. Slowly but surely normal people have stopped using it and now it’s just…
Claire Downie: Nazis.
Ben Boehlert: That’s why we insist that we are not affiliated.
MD: What about “McGill University Poll Party?”
Claire Downie: I love “McGill University Poll Party.” It’s one of those McGill community-building things.
Ben Boehlert: SSMU hasn’t taken over yet.
Ben Boehlert: I think the [original “Poll Party”] rules are really conducive for doing dumb things, which is my preferred way of using “Poll Party.”
MD: What has been your favourite poll historically?
Claire Downie: Oh man.
Ben Boehlert: It’s so hard to think because most of the polls I remember are my polls because I look at them more often.
Claire Downie: Most of the polls I remember, I remember because they’re terrible.
Ben Boehlert: That doesn’t mean it’s bad. What’s the dumbest poll? That’s probably my answer but I don’t know.
Claire Downie: I wish I thought of iconic “Poll Party” phases.
Ben Boehlert: What is my favorite? The flat stanley one. Or unlimited copies of Click. It’s a good one.
Claire Downie: I liked that poll “are you a noodle boy?” and the yelling at birds one.
It’s like watching someone try to get up after slipping on the ice.
MD: Do you have a least favorite “Poll Party” trend?
Ben Boehlert: What is my least favorite trend? There’s like “what of my favorite artists have you also seen?”
Claire Downie: Or “tag yourself as things my professor/sister/dog/son has said.”
Ben Boehlert: Oh and they were almost never good! They did them like 30 times and like two of them were good. Yeah tag yourself and quotes was it.
Claire Downie: Things a stranger has said.
MD: What do you think about “Poll Party “celebrities?
Ben Boehlert: I’m fine with [them] but at a certain point sometimes the poll quality does deteriorate. I’ve posted less and my polls have gotten better. Its harder to keep up the quality. People who call themselves a “Poll Party” celebrity, those are the worst.
Claire Downie: That’s my least favorite phase.
Ben Boehlert: None of the top posters are moderators.
MD: How do you feel about the nuance option in many polls?
Claire Downie: Fuck nuance.
Ben Boehlert: Fuck nuance.
Ben Boehlert: I uploaded a sociological article the other day that said fuck nuance and I largely stand by it. That’s essentially my feelings. It ruins polls. If you don’t want false positives, “Poll Party” is like, the whole point of “Poll Party” is that it gives false positives and false negatives and you could give nuance to anything if you so choose.
Claire Downie: And whenever there’s a nuance option everyone is thinking the same thing.
Ben Boehlert: Just comment and then don’t vote if you really don’t know. If nuance wins a poll I think that means it was poorly phrased because everybody had the same complaint.
MD: What is your favorite “Poll Party” trend?
Claire Downie: I can’t think of a good trend. Like a trend I haven’t hated.
Ben Boehlert: Yeah, I mean when people were like “what’s your Hogwarts house” and the choices would be like “30 Rock” characters or they would do other characters. I thought that was clever.
Claire Downie: I actively hated that.
MD: When you’re interacting with new people, like people our age, do you feel like you have a big secret? Does “Poll Party” feel like it haunts you?
Claire Downie: I feel like it comes up with people. Like when I meet someone I assume they’re in it, at least if they go to McGill.
Ben Boehlert: It doesn’t come up that often for me.
Claire Downie: Its come up on like multiple first dates for me.
Ben Boehlert: Oh? Really? That’s never happened to me. I am constantly concerned about talking about the same thing too often so I try not to bring it up that often.
MD: Is “Poll Party” a source of pride?
Ben Boehlert: It gives me the sense of importance that all humans crave. For sure. I mean probably to a certain extent yeah.
Claire Downie: It makes me think of the thing we read a paper on how we all want to think we’re unique and how we handle things.
Ben Boehlert: Or how everyone thinks they’re a good driver.
Claire Downie: But there has been some good stuff. Couples have met on “Poll Party.”
Ben Boehlert: Absolutely. I went to prom with someone I met on “Poll Party.”
MD: What’s the one thing you really people to understand about “Poll Party?”
Ben Boehlert: Feel free to post polls, because if its bad, nobody cares.
Claire Downie: And if it’s really bad, we’ll delete it.
To see more, check out The Best (Worst) of Poll Party from our November 18 edition.