No, but really.
I'm not quite sure why that phrase frightens to the extent it does. The social connotations of meeting someone online are still considered negative, though slightly improved over 5 years ago.
I still remember while in high school, my brother's girlfriend IMed me, they'd met online and while I had yet to meet her, she was still very interested in getting to know me, even though she wouldn't have that chance in person till much later.
People believe that meeting someone online is like the last desperate search for true love.
Online dating is a proactive way in which to further your search for a soul mate/ date/ activity partner. If you look around yourself and wonder, where are all the cute men? Why haven't I met someone? When is he going to arrive? Then you must also ask yourself, what am I doing in order to make my love life happen.
People who join online dating services usually realize that while they haven't found perfection around them, they are extremely hopeful that perfection exists and they are willing to take the risk, virtually, to meet them. It's no different than going into a bar and picking and choosing that way, in fact finding a person online might be even better.
1. While E-harmony doesn't use a picture and a paragraph, it's still more information than you would get from just blindly choosing a guy in a bar, and sites like E-harmony and Match.com and all the ones you pay for, usually offer an in depth personality profile of the person, viewable, before you even send them a hello. Sure, you have the 360 degree view of in person, but by reading that paragraph, you can already tell a person's personality, judgement, thought process, and relationship goals.
If you can get all that from just saying, I choose you at a club, I'd be baffled.
2. You don't have to do anything you aren't ready for. Most people will say, I dont have to do anything in person either, but here's what I mean, If I'm at a bar and it's closing time and George has just asked for my number... I'm far more likely to say, yeah, than I am to say, here's my digits to a guy on the internet... why? Because by getting to know someone through Iming or emailing, you have the ability to STOP responding and not have to look the guy in the face and say no. (A plus for the shy people in the crowd)
3. He/She's not DRUNK. I don't have to point out the serious advantages of this idea.
If you meet someone while drunk, what are the odds, they'll remember you in the morning? What are the odds that that they'll puke on you/grab you/ manhandle you? While alcohol is the social lubricant, the girl that has not only made out with me, but also my best friend, is probably not the girl you want to bring home to mother... unless she has thoroughly redeemed herself a year later and proven to be quite awesome.
4. Bars = Alcohol = Goodtime = Loosey Goosey
When you go to a bar, what are you looking for? Depending on who you are you could be looking for a number of things, usually I go to hang out with friends, hit up my favorite bartenders, and potentially dance the night away. Some people however use bars as their personal sex buffet. What do I mean? I mean that some people literally go to bars with the direct intention of meeting someone, giving them lots of drinks, have a good time, then have and GREAT time, if you catch my drift.
Odds are, morning after, you have to crawl out of their bed at 6:00 a.m., hailing a cab and forgetting your knickers. It is possible to find people who are into the above, but if you're not into that, online dating offers you a plethora of means in order to get to know someone, before you get to KNOOOOW someone.
I am not saying that online dating is an answer to all of your prayers, but what I am saying is that, if you're looking for something a bit more serious than a nightly fling, you might want to consider alternatives (not just the internet) to clubs/bars in your search of Mr/Mrs Right.