As part of this week’s theme of methods to network with your military and veteran contacts, I’m trying out social media sites and other outlets designed to connect those who serve and have served. Last night, I decided to try out Together We Served (TWS). Similar to RallyPoint, which I covered yesterday, Together We Served is designed for current and former military members. Unlike RallyPoint, it also allows family members of deceased veterans to create accounts. The difference in participation is due largely to the difference in mission: RallyPoint is designed primarily as a professional networking tool, while Together We Served bills itself as a social site as well as where veterans can “record the legacy of their military story.”
Started in 2003 as a Marine only site, Together We Served has grown to five websites, one for each branch, all linked into the main site. It is also supported by USAA bank and they even have a partnership involving a USAA credit card, where USAA will make a donation to Together We Served and, with your first purchase, you can earn a lifetime membership to TWS. Its site claims to have over 1.3 million members and to have “reconnected more service men and women than any other website or organization.” I can’t vouch for the veracity of that statement but I can say that there were an incredible number of names that popped up as soon as I started creating my profile.
Here’s what else I can say for a fact:
On the positive side, Together We Served offers a few unique options on its profile creation page, such as the ability to build a virtual “shadow box,” which is extensive and can be printed and framed, if you are so inclined. It also keeps an online war memorial called the “Roll of Honor,” which lists every servicemember who has fallen since the start of the Vietnam War and includes many of those who died before that time. Family members of the deceased can create a virtual shadowbox for their fallen loved one on the “Roll of Honor.” To see an example of a shadowbox, this one for an F-16 pilot I knew who was killed in Afghanistan, you can click here.
Additionally, once you begin adding your units, training, and other experience, Together We Served starts searching for other individuals who have served in that same unit or attended the same training and sends those names to your e-mail inbox very quickly. It also has the option to not only browse other profiles (though there’s a catch with that, which I’ll address shortly), but you can catch up on military related news, review recently uploaded photos and stories, and join discussion threads.
That said, I found a lot about Together We Served that I didn’t really care for. Let me be clear that this is my personal opinion and, for some of you social media lovers out there, what I’m about to say may not deter you in the least. It did, however, deter me.
First, you have to pay about $20 a year to have full access to the site. Now, to be fair, that’s not much and, according to the site, it’s done because they don’t sell your information and they don’t bombard you with ads (except for the USAA credit card image that keeps showing up on various pages). I don’t particularly feel the need to pay to connect with my military friends. However, my bigger bother with this was that they say you don’t have to pay to be able to view other profiles but you really do.
My issue with not being able to view other profiles was that I had no way to gauge what information is actually available to someone else looking at my profile. This was a concern for me because Together We Served required a few bits of information that other social media sites haven’t asked me for, such as my zip code, and displayed that information on my profile, at least the profile I could see. Again, I had no way to tell what others could see and I couldn’t find any privacy setting function to be able to hide that information. While I understand that all social media is a bit of a roll of the dice when it comes to security, I prefer to at least have the impression my information isn’t all hanging out for everyone to see.
My last little disappointment with the site was that, once I decided that too much information was revealed for my liking and I wanted to delete my account, the site didn’t present any way to do that. I ended up contacting their support line, via e-mail message, asking how I could delete my account due to my concerns over the information available for public viewing. I got no response, nothing asking me which information I found too revealing or any follow up, and no notice that my account had been deleted. Instead, I just got a “no member found” message when I attempted to log in today and see the status.
Overall, if you’re looking for a very active, in depth site designed to connect you with your fellow veterans on a personal, social level, or a place where you can record your military history and/or that of a loved one, I suggest you check out Together We Served for yourself and see if it’s a better fit for you than it was for me. You can find it at www.togetherweserved.com. You can also check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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