Sanna did not expect that someone would publish the photos and videos of her dancing at a private party and posing for the camera.
Sanna is 36 years old and she was among friends, including some influencers. But she never thought someone would betray her. That was her mistake.
The problem is that Sanna Marin is not just any citizen of Finland. She is the prime minister of the country. In 2016, when she was elected, she became the youngest head of government in the world (Today that’s Chilean president Gabriel Boric). And although Finland has Russia as a neighbor and permanently fears an invasion, like it happened in Ukraine, the first minister has not stopped working and being what she is: a young woman who wishes for “happiness, light and enjoyment amid these dark clouds.”
That’s how she put it in a speech in which she nearly cried and in which she defended herself from the harsh criticisms of her presence at parties. Later, she apologized for the publication of a photo of two naked women kissing in the gardens of her official Kerasanta residence in Helsinki. “It was not appropriate,” she said. But she stands firm on her right to a private life.
“I am a human being,” she insisted in the speech. “I have not missed one day of work, and I have not left anything undone … I want to believe that people will value what we politicians do at work instead of what we do in our free time. I don’t see any problem with enjoying ourselves in the company of friends.”
In support of their prime minister, members of the Social Democratic Party of Finland – and women around the world – jammed social media with videos of them dancing. The message was repeated: In a world dominated by adult men who wear ties, Sanna Marin should not be judged and criticized for the simple fact that she’s a woman and young.
That disparity was highlighted when opposition politicians in Finland demanded Sanna take a drug test after the videos of her dancing with friends were made public. And although the test was negative, there’s always the suspicion of machismo against the prime minister, even though Finland is one of the most liberal countries in the world.
Nothing is private.
“When no one sees me, I can be or not be,” says a popular song by Alejandro Sanz. “When no one sees me, I turn the world upside down.” But if you turn the world upside down, and there are cell phones nearby, they can record you and make it public.
What happened to the prime minister of Finland can happen to any of us. In fact, it happens every day. Social media is full of photos and videos of people who did not want to be recorded. Jennifer Lopez complained recently that a video of her wedding to Ben Affleck was made public without her authorization. “This was stolen without our consent,” the actor complained. But even people who have nothing to do with politics or movies see their lives made public.
Cell phones rule our lives. We sleep and dance with them. Several artists I have interviewed find it hard to believe when thousands of people grab their cell phones in the middle of a concert instead of enjoying the music. For influencers, there’s no food, trip, kiss or hug without a photo or a video. With the success of TikTok and Instagram, we have become (unpaid) editors for China and Meta. We edit and publish, and they get the money.
The computer I am using to write this column has a little eye that I am convinced always wants to see me. Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, must know something when he covers up the camera on his laptop. So do I.
It scares me when I search for something on my cell or computer and minutes later I get ads precisely for the thing I am searching for. And I am almost totally certain that our texts and emails are read by people they were not sent to. That’s why Donald Trump boasts that he has not sent a text or email for the past decade. Trump is many things, but no one has ever accused him of being a fool.
When I land at the Miami airport, a photo in the Global Entry kiosk is enough for them to know where I am coming from and on what flight. They don’t even need to see my passport to know who I am. And by registering the pupils of my eyes, the CLEAR system allows me to enter any U.S. airport without showing an ID.
Of course there are many ways to protect our information and our personal lives. But I have so many passwords that it’s impossible to memorize them. They are strewn around in little papers and in code. I am always afraid that some young hacker can give me the biggest digital headache of my online life.
This phrase has been attributed to Gabriel García Márquez: “One has three lives; the public life, the private life and the secret life.” The secret life of Sanna Marin is still safe. But her private life has been penetrated.
There’s a lesson for everyone here. Amid the frequent and inevitable invasions of our privacy, the only mistake the prime minister of Finland made was the result of naivete. The mantra of our time is this: photo snapped, photo published. And if you don’t want a video to go viral, don’t record it.
Turning the private into the public is the bane of our time. When we think no one is looking, almost always there’s a camera pointed at us.