A new Defense Department "Real Warriors Campaign" app aims to let users share encouraging photos while giving them access to mental health help and support.
The app, rolled out mid-September, lets users post photos on the app's wall or share those photos with certain social media platforms. It also includes an easy-to-access menu with support resources for the military crisis line, among others. The wall can also be viewed off-mobile.
Let's be clear up front -- I'm not in love with this app. It seems like a waste of resources to spend money on a DoD-specific social media platform when they could've simply asked users to add a specific hashtag to photo (example #realwarriors) on a existing platform like Instagram.
Officials who helped develop it said that the reason they developed a new app instead of rallying around a hashtags was to create something "unique."
"The image and background that we use, we are trying to offer that to our service members and veterans who may identify with it more than what is available on Instagram," said Lt. Cmdr. Dana Lee, United States Public Health Service Chief, Early Intervention Psychological Health Promotion at the Deployment Health Clinical Center Defense Centers of Excellence for PH and TBI. "We wanted to create something that was unique and ... has certain features that are specific."
The app is attractive -- but overall the functionality is clunky. Screens that seem like they should swipe, don't. The social media options are a little 2011 -- Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter are your only choices. An official release on the app also named Flickr, not Pinterest, as an option, but it's not showing as an option for me. That's OK, because that would knock this app back at least another year.
It is currently only available for Apple products, and you can access it here. Officials said they don't have a date set for Android availability. But that's OK, but you really don't want this anyway.
When you log into the app, you are directed to a "wall" of photos and messages posted by users (or the admin, as is the case of all of the ones in this screenshot, I'm guessing).
Before I walk you through the photo portion of this app and all its clunkiness, here is the one thing I found useful:
Tapping the top left hand corner of the app brings up this menu with direct lines to mental health support. That's good. We need all the connections to mental health support we can get. But is it worth even the 16.3 MB of storage the app is taking up on my iPhone. Hmm ...
But this direct connection isn't the meat of the app. Really, it's focused on photos.
Using photos in the Real Warriors app
You can tap a photo and give to a "salute," the app's version of a "like."
You can also share it, but only on specific platforms -- Instagram is not an option, for example:
The additional options stop at reporting the image:
If you want to share an image you tap the camera button on the bottom of the wall. But the app won't let you choose a photo from your album. You have to take a picture IN the app. So that precious photo you got of your kid greeting the service member? Nope. Can't use it. If you didnt take it in the app you're sunk.
It also puts the caption box over the photo while you're taking it -- but saves a non-caption box version to your phone's album.
Here's what the photo taking feature looks like -- with a special view of me at my desk just for you:
After you take the photo it forces you to add a filter -- but it doesn't let you swipe/scroll to the last filter. This is as far as it goes:
Next you must add a caption. Don't want a caption? Too bad. Want a caption other than one of these? Also too bad. These are your options:
Finally you add your own message - and hit "submit." The photo is then screened by the admins and then, at some point, posted to the wall.
I didn't keep an eye on the wall the rest of the day, but checked it at about 8:30 p.m. and found that my photo had been posted:
Conclusion: Sorry, Real Warrior campaign, this app is silly.