First of all, welcome to the board, bella. You'll find a lot of great advice here.
Your coworkers sound incredibly immature and cruel. I've never been "called out" because I was online, but unfortunately, there's no way to keep someone from seeing you, although it's not as likely that other women will see your profile. All in all, I say GO FOR IT!
I personally am on match.com and Plenty of Fish (a free site). I have been on match a couple of times before and gave up in disgust and frustration, but a year and a half ago, I decided I wouldn't let the negatives get me down, and this time it has gone much better. I have met a better quality of men (although, still not "the one", so far). POF has been a real bust so far for me, but there are people on this board who have met their spouses on POF. I don't know how old you are, but OLD has been a real boon for the over-35 crowd.
OK, some advice:1. You must post a photo. Many men won't even look at a profile without a photo. Be sure your photos are really good--I can't emphasize this enough. Hire a professional if you need to, but avoid overly posed studio shots. Smile.2. Write a positive profile. This is not the place to air any grievances with your ex's or to say things like "Please, no players!" or "I don't play games." Don't waste this precious space with negatives and cliches. Be sure to include specific details about yourself so men can really get a picture of who you are.3. Meet sooner rather than later. Don't carry on a long email or phone exchange with someone. I don't care how long you "talk" this way, you can never know if you really connect until you meet in person. The rule of thumb is three emails: one of you (I prefer the man) should suggest meeting. 4. Take things S-L-O-W. Some of the best advice I ever got: when you go to meet someone, think of it as going to meet a friend. Don't be in a big hurry to move things along, really try to get to know him first. You can still be romantic, just take it slow, OK?5. Take the long view. It may take a while to meet someone special, so try not to let the negatives get you down.
And finally, a couple of books you may enjoy: "Fine I'll Go Online" is a hip guide to the process in general and has really good advice for writing a profile. "The Rules for Online Dating" is also very good, although some of the advice is a little silly--however, it still is a great overview of the whole process with an awful lot of truth in it (to me anyway).
I'm sure you will get a ton of advice from all the experienced people on this board. Good luck to you and let us know how it goes!
This is the opinion
Answer to your first question:
If you are going to do it, I would definitely go with Match.
There are nice, intelligent guys online, offline, at school, in offices, at the grocery store, in church, etc. etc. – AND there are also players, liars, and scumbags in all those places.