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Does “Eye-Witnessing” Still Exist?

With the digital age moving at a pace faster then one can keep up with, the idea of being an eye-witness to certain events is slowly fading. To be an eye witness according to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary is…

“One who sees an occurrence or an object; especially : one who gives a report on what he or she has seen”

Being an eye-witness is being at the scene, using your own two eyes to observe what is happening, and being able to say you were there. People are constantly saying “I was there! I experienced this with my own eyes!” However, in the past being able to experience something with your own eyes meant that you had to physically be at the location where the incident or event was occurring. Now however, with one click of the mouse you can become an eye-witness from the comfort of your home.

Sitting Witnesses

It’s a Friday night and you are sitting on your couch flipping through the channels. Suddenly you see from the bottom of the screen “breaking news!” You turn up the volume and begin to listen and watch the video being played. This footage is live. Can’t you consider yourself an “eye-witness” if you are watching live exactly what is happening?

In the song, Digital Witness by St. Vincent it states,

“People turn the TV on, it looks just like a window”

Isn’t looking at live video on your TV or laptop like looking out your window? Everything now is live streamed, you are able to become “eye-witnesses” without physically being there.

Another aspect of watching TV and being an eyewitness is that today, TV’s are made so extremely realistic that it does physically feel like you are there. There is no longer blur, it is crystal clear. Also, screens are constantly increasing with size making it feel like your entire wall is the TV screen.

Although the concept of live TV has been around for a while, the internet is what is truly changing everyone into eye-witnesses.


To be an eye-witness as explained in the definition is to physically see something happening. However, I feel that being an eye-witness now has extended beyond. Twitter has become a social media hub for live-feed updates from sporting events to protests. People will live-tweet almost anything now a days to keep people in the know. Live-Tweeting is defined by Twitter

“to engage on Twitter for a continuous period of time—anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours—with a sequence of focused Tweets. The focus can be a big live event that everybody’s paying attention to (e.g. a TV show or an award show) or it can be an event you create yourself”

There are even guides to how to properly live-tweet, as explained in Social Media Week’s “Live-Tweeting- An Essential Top 10 Guide of Tips and How-To’s

Here they break Live-Tweeting down into 10 Steps:
1. Alert your followers and give them a hashtag – give your followers a heads up with things such as promos, commercials are tweet ahead of time.
2. Create your own hashtag – keep your hashtag short and easy to remember!
3. Tweet using an aggregator – get people to tweet at you and have them add to the conversation
4. Predetermine hashtag and twitter searches/follows before going live – make sure you know who to follow and be prepared
5. Ignore the hecklers, salute the fans – stand your ground!
6. Add to the story- make it entertaining
7. But don’t give out too many spoilers – but not too entertaining
8. Pre-schedule tweet- time your tweets accordingly
9. Get a feel for the culture – know who you are tweeting at
10. Use analytic tools to track progress – see how you are doing !

Now this process for live-tweeting is definitely on the more serious side and usually is for actual news corporations. However, as stated in the definition anyone can live-tweet an event on their own. From baseball games to protests- if you have a twitter you are able to give others the opportunity to become eye-witnesses.

Recently there are many examples on Twitter of people begin eye-witnesses and live-tweeting to others. This can be most popularly seen for sporting events.

1. Kobe Bryant Live Tweets His Own Game
Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 12.19.46 PM


2. Sports Teams, such as our own Fordham Rams Athletic Twitter will live Tweet games.
Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 12.23.30 PM

Although sporting events are an exciting thing to follow via live-tweeting, there are various events that are live-tweeted that are more serious and important, such as last years Boston Marathon Bombings. Not only were news networks live-tweeting but also hundreds of thousands of individuals who were present.

The Boston Globe was one source that used live-tweeting to keep individuals informed.
Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 12.26.08 PM

I understand as I explained previously that being an eye-witness means physically seeing something occur, and reading live-tweets isn’t actually that…however, with digital media this instantaneous uploading of live information in my eyes is a form of witnessing.



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