CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-  It's one of the toughest parts of college life:  you move to a new city, live in unfamiliar surroundings, even share a room with people you've never met.  The first day of college can be intimidating, but for many freshmen, Twitter has come to the rescue.  The proliferation of smart phones, IPads, and other communication tools was once a cause of concern for educators.  In a society where young people constantly have their noses buried in mobile devices, there have been fears of a social disconnect in which teens seldom interact face-to-face.  But Twitter on campus is proving to be a surefire way for kids of similar interests to link up.

Thanks to the social media network, new students "found" each other well in advance of Orientation Day.  When they showed up in person on Friday, most had already become familiar with each other due to back and forth tweeting.  They know each other's hometowns, favorite recording artists, hobbies and movies.

Freshman Joseph Thomas from Clarksville, Tennessee, set foot on campus for the second time ever on Friday.  "But I already know about sixty people here on Twitter," he said.  "I find out where people are meeting, what they're doing for fun, where they go to eat.  Twitter makes it fun, because just going up to somebody you don't know is not easy."

This may sound like a grand idea that originated from University leadership, but it actually just sort of happened, according to UTC media specialist Laura Bond.  Incoming students created their own hashtag (a hash mark used within a message to identify a keyword or topic of interest, such as #UTChattanooga), and from there, the natural order of the "Twitterverse" clicked in.  Students from various parts of the nation who had virtually no acquaintances in Chattanooga were quickly connected with dozens of their peers.

Student Government Association president Bradley Bell thinks back to his freshman year, in the days before Twitter became a social network force...way back in 2008.  "My first day here I knew two people, and they were both from Knoxville like me, " he said.  "I think it's great that Twitter allows these freshmen to connect and communicate.  Even before the first day of class there's already a lot of talk.  As soon as they arrive on campus, it's like, meet me at the University Center so we can get to know each other." 

Students say being able to immediately make friends provides comfort and familiarity on campus from day one.  They say it might pay dividends in the future, helping students who need a sense of community stay in school and earn their degree.

LaShaun Grandberry, a freshman from LaGrange, Tennessee said, "Most likely just knowing people will help everybody stay in school.  Some kids get homesick when they don't have any friends.  This will help me get involved on campus since I'm from the other side of the state."