On Tuesday, April 20, 2021, GAIN 2021 occurred online (still due to the current pandemic). Approximately 100 participants were present, including professionals, leaders, and workers within the industry, most of whom are from Europe, with some representatives from Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
GAIN 2021 is organized by the two European divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church: the Inter-European Division (EUD) and the Trans-European Division (TED), overseen by the two directors of communication—Corrado Cozzi and Victor Hulbert, respectively—and HopeMedia Europe, managed by Klaus Popa.
The second day began with a presentation entitled “‘In the Time of Coronavirus’, delivered to the general assembly by Hanz Gutierrez, an Adventist theologian and philosopher. Professor Gutierrez underlined how the digital era brings with it new possibilities but also new responsibilities. “The use of media has a greater impact now compared to the past, and it demands greater care and sense of responsibility. Moreover, media redesigns and creates a new sense of reality. Virtual reality is becoming, in many ways, true reality.” The digital world, which has exploded thanks in part to the pandemic, has transformed reality, even that of religion and spirituality, and “we are not adequately prepared as a church for that transformation,” continued Gutierrez.
“Nowadays—different from the past—the relationship between resources is even more important. The internet has highlighted our vulnerabilities and fragility, and the church has a duty to meet these critical human issues with significant empathy and solidarity.” Gutierrez concluded, “Solidarity towards the human condition is the heart of the religious message, especially in the time of a global epidemic. We need to build a new empathic religiosity.”
The presentations continued with Dan Arsenie, an SEO marketer, who delved into the theme “Trends in search engines and social media after the pandemic”. “It is indisputable that the pandemic has completely revolutionized internet behavior. If, for example, in 2019, in the United Kingdom (UK), the most searched topics were soccer, cricket, and films like ‘Game of Thrones’, in 2020, after the global spread of the COVID-19 virus,– the topics changed radically and were all connected to the pandemic. On the web, people ask questions, for example, about the symptoms of COVID:, ‘What are precautions to take against the virus?’ and even ‘How to cut my own hair’ (Google Trends statistics),” Arsenie said.
“The pandemic has modified our habits,” he continued, “especially on social media.” As an example, the average time spent on Facebook in the USA has increased from 26 minutes daily in 2019 to 34 minutes in 2020. Social media in general has seen an increase in users (usage was in decline in 2019), and the various platforms have become a more accurate reflection of real life. In closing, the actions of the corporations that manage the social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok have exponentially increased their value.“The good news for digital evangelism,” concluded Arsenie, “is that the need for answers to existential questions has reached colossal levels. It’s an opportunity we cannot miss.”
The assembly, as on the first day, then separated into various groups (workshops) that would go in-depth with themes most technically related to communications.
The message expressed by the different speakers can be summarized into one simple and clear concept: the digital world is bringing out, in part thanks to the pandemic, the vulnerabilities and fragility of the human race. It is necessary to adopt an empathic and supportive approach to meet the deepest needs of others and transmit hope in an uncertain and confusing world. Our message needs to be clear, simple, empathic, and kind, with a strong hint of hope.