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The Top 10 Things Gen Z & Millennials Are Doing in Their Free Time

We asked young consumers what they’re doing in their free time…


TL;DR:

  • Listening to music is the top activity Gen Z and Millennials do in their free time
  • Gen Z is much more likely to than Millennials to watch videos on YouTube and social media platforms
  • Gen Z is also more likely to play video games in their free time compared to Millennials

As Forbes recently reported, competing for viewers has never been more intense, with more screens and platforms taking their time than ever before, and the reality that “eyeballs can only be in so many places.” TV-based entertainment is contending with the fact that everyone, especially Gen Z, is choosing to watch videos on their mobile devices rather than the big screen. YPulse’s Media Consumption survey shows smartphones are the top screen that young consumers are watching content on weekly, and social media is neck-and-neck with streaming services when it comes to the services that Gen Z is watching content on. And of course, there’s also gaming to contend with, with 66% of young consumers telling YPulse “Video games are more entertaining than TV and movies.” With multiple media competing for their attention, what exactly are young consumers spending their free time on the most?

Our hobbies and passions behavioral report asks 13-39-year-olds what they do in their free time for pleasure, and had respondents choose from a list of 30 activities ranging from screen-based to active. The full list included everything from exercise to cooking/baking to online shopping to watching TV—and here are the top 10 responses for each generation:

In the battle for young consumers’ free time, media is certainly beating out screen-free pursuits
As mentioned, the list of activities that Gen Z and Millennials were presented included screen-free pursuits like reading, exercise, playing board games, and writing. And while our research does show that sports, reading, and art are some of young people’s biggest hobbies, it’s clear that most of their free time is occupied by media of one kind or another. Out of the top ten free time activities for these gens, only one (getting fresh air/going for a walk outside for Gen Z and exercising for Millennials) is a distinctly screen-free pursuit. Social media, video content, and gaming are more likely to be taking up their time.

Listening to music is the top activity Gen Z and Millennials do in their free time
Starting from the top, listening to music is the top thing Gen Z and Millennials do in their free time, with Gen Z more likely than Millennials to say so. YPulse’s music report found that the majority of young consumers say music is an important part of their lives, but for Gen Z music is even more of a passion and an influence on their lives and behavior.  The younger generation is spending more of their time listening to music, and they’re more likely to see it as an outlet for emotions and stress. YPulse research also shows that musicians are a top source of guidance and support for Gen Z. Of course, music is also a major part of the content they’re consuming: YPulse’s research shows that music/music videos are second in the ranking of video content that Gen Z is watching weekly. Music is also a driver of their social media behavior, with Gen Z fuelling the popularity of the audio-focused TikTok, where going viral can boost a song or artist into popularity in the blink of an algorithm.

Gen Z is spending more time than Millennials watching videos on YouTube; social media platforms
Gen Z is more likely than Millennials to say that they spend their free time watching videos on social media and on YouTube than Millennials. Remember when we said that smartphones are the top screen that young consumers are watching content on weekly, and social media is neck-and-neck with streaming services when it comes to the services that Gen Z is watching content on? YPulse’s media consumption data shows that after Netflix, TikTok and YouTube are the top sources that Gen Z is using to watch video weekly or more. And according to Data.ai “Gen Z [is] spending about three times as much in the short-form video than they are in OTT.”  Streamers like Netflix have an uphill battle as their content is more “capital intensive” than TikTok or YouTube.

Gen Z is also more likely to be playing video games in their free time
YPulse’s gaming report found that the majority of young people play video games, but Gen Z is more likely than Millennials to say they’re playing on consoles and computers on a daily basis, and to say that it’s cool to play video games. So it tracks that they’re far more likely to say that they’re gaming in their free time. We have also explored how Gen Z is more likely to be spending time in virtual world games i.e. metaverses, which have quickly become a hotbed of brand activity. But their love of gaming is impacting the other media they consume as well.  As platforms compete, their offerings are morphing to include gaming aspects, with Netflix getting into gaming, and TikTok dabbling in in-app games as well. Ultimately, the lines between these various free time pursuits are continuing to blur, as music concerts happen in the metaverse and gaming infiltrates everything from social media to TV content.

YPulse Business users can access the full hobbies and passions behavioral report and data here

Don’t have a YPulse Paid account? Find out more here.