Football discussions used to centre around a few guys or girls getting together down the pub after a match to down a pint or two while arguing the merits of their club's new left back.
Sure things could sometimes get heated, because every group has an idiot usually named Kevin or Sandra, and most gatherings of friends at a drinking establishment will include a belligerent drunk named Peter or Allison, but on the whole things were pretty civil and informed discussions were had.
While these sorts of discussions still occur, the majority of football talk between fans now is on social media and online message boards, and the tone of things has changed drastically.
Without the benefit of looking across the table at a real person there's no longer any accountability for one's words. People can sound off against a person with a different opinion, and not only disagree with them but be outright insulting.
Over the last few years I've seen some outrageous attacks on folks by so-called fellow supporters and this kills the spirit of why we are interested in football in the first place, and that's fun. Football is supposed to be about enjoyment, and what's so enjoyable about slating your team after a bad result on Facebook and then ripping another supporter to shreds for daring to have an alternate view?
When a big team like Manchester United or Chelsea are struggling through difficult seasons it becomes even more venomous between supporters, as people take out their frustrations on each other.
Contentious issues like whether or not a struggling manager should be sacked, and the inevitable section of fans who consider themselves to be better fans because of their loyalty and longevity can even lead to the destruction of supporters groups.
I saw this even with my local team Toronto FC as well, with fans really tearing into each other on message boards over the club's struggles. Interestingly enough, when people met up in person everything was fine and dandy. Funny how that happens.
A good rule of thumb before you rip into a fellow supporter is to ask yourself, "would I say this to them in person?" If the answer is no, keep it to yourself.