Q&A: The Stranger Things Kids on Their Social, Streaming and Gaming Obsessions

Netflix stars offer clues for marketers on how to reach Gen Z

Stranger Things stars (l. to r.) Noah Schnapp, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin Netflix
Headshot of Emma Bazilian

Move over, millennials: it’s the tweens and teens of Gen Z that are marketers’ latest obsession. To help decipher how these digital natives view the media universe, we decided to conduct our own informal focus group—and who better to represent Gen Z than the stars of Netflix’s Stranger Things? We called Finn Wolfhard (14), Gaten Matarazzo (15), Caleb McLaughlin (16) and Noah Schnapp (13) to find out what they think about social media, YouTube, TV and more.

Adweek: What social media platforms do you use?
Noah Schnapp: My top three are definitely Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. I mainly use Instagram and Twitter to be able to interact with fans and talk to them, and then Snapchat is the app I use to interact with my friends.

Caleb McLaughlin: I would just say Instagram. That’s where everyone is at, especially my generation. I’m not really that active on Snapchat because I have an Instagram and Instagram does the same thing as Snapchat now.

Finn Wolfhard: I mainly use Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Those are my three.

Gaten Matarazzo: I have an Instagram account, a Twitter. I think Instagram is the one that I use the most. It’s the easiest way to connect with everyone.

Who do you follow?
FW: Ryan Reynolds is really, really funny. Chris Pratt is really great, too. I like some meme accounts. Oh yeah, and Judd Apatow is super cool. I guess I like comedic people. I don’t want to follow people that are kind of a drag.

CM: I follow a lot of NBA players Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade. I’m a big fan of Golden State. I follow Nike, House of Highlights, Bleacher Report on Instagram.

Do you use Facebook?
NS: I think Facebook is more for old people and, like, adults. My parents use Facebook. I honestly have never been on Facebook.

GM: I have a Facebook page, but usually my mom goes on Facebook. I don’t really know how it works.

What’s your social media philosophy? Has it changed since you started doing Stranger Things?
FW: On Instagram, because there’s more people [following me], I try to show my weird side, but not too much of it because so many people could take it differently. Like if it’s a joke they don’t find funny, you know? I usually like to stay away from politics and religion and stuff. It’s awesome that people can use free speech online, but I just feel like me being a 14-year-old also doesn’t really help the political process.

CM: I’m just like not really a person that got inappropriate [on social media] or anything. I’m a PG person even behind closed doors, so I just had to be myself and that was it.

Do you watch any TV or streaming shows? Are you a binge-watcher?
GM: The Walking Dead I’m all caught up on, finally. I just started watching Ozark. And that’s pretty much it. I’m not doing anything for the whole weekend, I’ll probably binge [a show] accidentally.

FW: I usually just watch YouTube videos or reruns on Netflix of older TV shows like Family Guy and stuff. But I still really want to start watching more TV.

CM: I love the show Black-ish on ABC. It’s funny. But basically, I don’t really like have time to catch shows on TV. The only shows that I watch are Stranger Things and The Walking Dead and NBA games.

NS: I’ve tried watching shows before while I’m filming and it doesn’t go good because I binge-watch all night and then I wake up with like one hour of sleep on my filming day. I really need to see Game of Thrones. Maybe The Flash and Supernatural, too. [But] I haven’t turned on the TV in a while. I think it’s getting dusty.

How about YouTube?
FW: I watch a lot of YouTube videos. I like game play channels like the Game Grumps. But I mostly watch sketch comedy. I really used to like TVMaxwell, which is a classic, amazing, super-underrated comedy channel. And Cyndago was great. And a lot of these comedy channels don’t exist anymore. I guess comedy on YouTube is sort of dying out and that’s super sad.

GM: [YouTube is] pretty much, like, 80 percent of where I find my entertainment. I’ll go through phases of what I’m watching. My favorite YouTuber is definitely Jacksepticeye. He does a lot of gaming stuff. A lot of people say it’s kind of boring watching someone else play a video game, but it’s less about him playing the video game and more about him being a comedian.

NS: I go on YouTube just for fun when I have nothing to do. I love watching Lilly Singh. We actually collaborated and did a video on her channel, which was so much fun.

CM: I usually watch YouTube if I miss [an NBA game] and I want to catch up on the highlights or just, like, watch prank videos and stuff.

This story first appeared in the Oct. 30, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@adweekemma emma.bazilian@adweek.com Emma Bazilian is Adweek's features editor.