Social media has played a significant role in our everyday lives over the past few years. With the creation of social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, anyone can share their thoughts in neatly packaged pictures, ten second long videos, or 140 character posts. These messages can be used to communicate with everyone from close friends to complete strangers.

Seeing the appeal of these programs and an opportunity to interact with their supporters more frequently, many politicians have created social media accounts. In fact, a study from 2016 found that about 25% of Americans (both Republicans and Democrats) follow political leaders from their party on social media. Unfortunately, politicians have used social media both as a tool and as a weapon. Social media allows for phenomena like confirmation bias and yellow journalism to occur, both of which play detrimental roles in today’s politics.

Confirmation bias takes place whenever individuals with specific belief systems exclusively seek information to confirm their views. By surrounding themselves only with opinions similar to their own, they don’t experience ideas that challenge their political ideologies. As a result, they find it difficult to accept news that goes against their beliefs.

In extreme cases, this bias can lead to a point where the opposing sides have conflicting evidence and “facts” to support their theories. Last year, in the wake of racially charged police shootings, President Trump tweeted out a vastly inaccurate statistic about interracial homicides. In this tweet, he said that the percentage of “whites killed by whites” was less than 1%, while “whites killed by blacks” was 81%. This message portrayed black people as murderous, invalidated the epidemic of police violence against black Americans, and falsely confirmed the prejudices of uninformed people around the nation.

Social media allows for confirmation bias when it lets us pick what we see and what we don’t. Choosing to surround yourself solely with people of your bias skews your perspective greatly. While most people do this to some extent in real life, it becomes a lot easier on social media, a place where one can curate a platform to fit their opinions.

Another aspect of recent political activity on social media is a concept called yellow journalism. Yellow journalism, also called “fake news,” is a form of journalism built on flashy headlines and exaggerations, sometimes at the cost of the truth. Often found on the cover of tabloids in supermarkets, yellow journalism has snuck its way into our social media feeds, plastering our walls with sensationalized and politically charged nonsense.

The ability to retell stories without ever fact checking has increased exponentially over the past few years with the power to repost something in a second. Sensationalized and blatantly false headlines like “Democrats want to impose Islamic law in Florida” or “Hillary Clinton runs a child sex ring in the basement of a pizza parlor” shock and intrigue people. This leads them to share the posts on social media platforms. Like confirmation bias, yellow journalism becomes an issue when two separate people have varying “facts” to support their arguments.

So what does all this mean for Americans and politicians today? While it would be in the people’s best interest to attempt to stop the effects of confirmation bias and yellow journalism, that is not usually what politicians want. As seen already, some play into this political reality television show with appalling tweets and impulsive decisions to gain support and attention.

As users, we must remain careful of what we believe, aware of what information we are absorbing no matter where it comes from. You’ve heard it before: don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.