By early afternoon yesterday, the Web was filled with tributes to victims of the Virginia Tech shootings, photos and video from the campus as the tragedy unfolded, and firsthand accounts of the shootings - delivered via text message.

Even the violent, obscenity-laden plays allegedly written by the shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, had found their way to AOL's Web site.

While the gunman was still on the loose Monday, Virginia Tech students, their friends and relatives checked on loved ones' well-being on sites such as Facebook.com, MySpace and LiveJournal.com, where students left updates on their safety.

Technology has created new ways for people to mourn - communally and quickly.

"It's very natural that students would flock to social-networking sites to grieve," said Mary Madden, senior research specialist for the Pew Internet & American Life Project. "They have really sort of become the nexus of online social life for many people. In terms of the grieving process, you have people who naturally are sharing photos of the victims, linking to their profiles, and sharing memories and stories about the victims."

Cell phones, computers and BlackBerry devices have provided a natural outlet for a generation of young people who seem comfortable sharing all their emotions and thoughts with the world electronically. An added benefit: Text messages are more likely than voice calls to get through when wireless traffic backs up, according to Verizon Communications Inc.

Jan Fernback, a Temple University assistant professor who researches new media, said social-networking sites and text messaging appealed to young people in part because it's a world that belongs to them. Older people don't use the technologies as much.

"It's like a little club for them," she said.

Facebook has been inundated with tributes to the Virginia victims. One tribute group on that site had 135,000 members as of yesterday afternoon.

"May God have mercy upon her and all the other lives taken yesterday," one poster said on a Facebook site devoted to victim Reema Samaha, who reportedly went to the same high school as the shooter.

At least one Virginia Tech student - Bryce Carter - blogged live as the shootings occurred. He posted photos and videos he shot from his dorm room on LiveJournal.com.

"Tears run as the death count climbs. Currently 32 are dead," he wrote at 2 p.m. Monday. "I cannot begin to describe the pain that runs through me now."

Youngjin Yoo, an associate professor of management information systems at Temple, said blogging, texting and other technologies can offer victims and others more accurate information more quickly.

Yoo was in a building at Case Western University in May 2003 when a gunman went on a seven-hour shooting rampage that killed one and injured two.

He and his colleagues used e-mail to communicate with one another as they hunkered behind desks in their offices.

"The news over the air wasn't accurate at all," he said, "compared to what we knew based on e-mail."

The Case faculty and staff archived those e-mail messages "as a way for us to think about what had happened," Yoo said. "You could see the solidarity, terror and support."

Contact staff writer Miriam Hill at 215-854-5520 or hillmb@phillynews.com.