Where should I start? In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with internet dating. Wait, that's not true. In and of itself, it's highly suspect.
There are two ways to look at internet dating. The way I used to think about it (and the way I still do, mostly) is that personals are bad because you make a long list of qualities that you require in a person, rather than taking people as they come. It's always been distasteful to me. I don't like quantifying people--distilling them to a package of attributes. I do judge, of course, but I like to give folks a chance.
The good way to think about internet dating is as widening the net. You meet people you never would have met otherwise. It becomes one prong in a multi-prong approach to dating.
Internet dating is a little more sophisticated than the newspaper personal ad. There are the pictures. There is the quite detailed information that you are required to provide. Everyone is doing it. It's (relatively) cheap. And you can do it from the privacy of your own office/house/wi-fi powered coffee shop. Everyone who never wanted to leave the house to date, or actually make an effort at conversation, this is your chance! Wait, that's a problem, isn't it? Yes, indeed. The actual unavailability of many, many, many of the internet people is striking. I'm not even going to discuss the general stupidity, rudeness and lack of common sense that I've encountered.
The alternatives to internet dating are everything else--everything that I've ever done in my life that has kept me steadily in dates and boyfriends (not that it ever feels that way, but still, I can't deny my general dating bounty). The best way to meet someone is through friends. The other good ways to meet someone are at school (university), at work, while doing an enjoyable activity (playing a game, taking a class, volunteering), at a bar, in a coffee shop, on the metro/bus/train, or a variety of other random encounters.
I've had dates with guys I met at parties, at bars, in class, through friends, and (once) on the metro. All of my volunteering, softball playing, group joining (book & writing) and class taking (post university) have not yielded a single date. Bars, parties and friends are the way to go.
Thinking through my entire boyfriend history (which is separate from "date" history), including college and grad school, the meeting circumstances include: class, bar, sports (rowing team), salsa dancing, party (just one bf), work, mutual friends, swing dancing, internet. (While in college, I never met a boyfriend at a party and only once in a class. Then again, I only had two serious boyfriends in college.) Looking at this list, it's clear that I need to go to a lot more parties, keep dancing and hang out at bars. And my friends need to step up!
The internet has yielded me dozens of dates, but only one "boyfriend." (And that boyfriend turned out to be a weirdo--of the emotionally unavailable kind, not the creepy kind.) The investment of time internet dating takes is staggering. Constant, daily monitoring is required. Considered responses are needed. Carefully worded rejections must be written. Multiple phone calls must be made. Screening and decision making must be done on very limited information. It's fucking exhausting and the payoff is almost nil (at least for me). Actually, my limited success makes me think about giving up internet dating for good. It has worked for some, but I think my efforts may be better spent elsewhere.
Grateful for: being able to think things through clearly.