If chat rooms are the meat markets of the Internet, then online dating sites are the classy bars and restaurants. Yes, there are still some sharks swimming around, but there's a greater number of fish looking for the same thing you are, be it friends, dating, or long term relationships.
There is a plethora of choices out there when it comes to online matchmaking. Some of them are quite expensive. As a poor little fish, I have been steering clear of these and sticking to free sites, some of which are little more than bulletin boards. I have found at least one site that gives those bigger sites a run for their money. It's completely free and you take a compatibility quiz at the beginning (just like those big money sites you see on tv). You can filter your results by age, location, or what kind of relationship they are seeking, be it friends, dating, long term, or just someone to hang out with.
One of my favorite features allows you to see who has viewed your profile. Maybe you weren't what they were looking for, or maybe they're just shy, but it gives you the option of reaching out and touching someone you otherwise may have never noticed.
And the profiles give some good information. Where the person lives, what kind of relationship they're looking for, if they have/want kids, profession, religion, pictures (in most cases), if they smoke/drink/do drugs/have a car. Then there is the About Me section where they try and sum themselves up. Sometimes these are really fun to read. I suspect these are the people who get the most responses.
You can give as much or little information about yourself as possible. Hit it off? Swap email addresses or chat messenger screen names. Maybe even phone numbers. Make a date in a public place. From there, who knows. I am learning that you only get out of it what you put in. It's important to be honest, with the people you're talking to, but more importantly, with yourself. Be open to possibilities. Keep an open mind. And most of all, have fun! Fishing is supposed to be a pass time, not a chore.