Fear should be vanquished, and one of the ways to dispel phobias has been intentional over-exposure. One of my friends tells me about a "newbie exercise" where you say "Hi" to 50 random people in one week. It sounds like a good idea, to force oneself into being open to sociability.
I discovered, also, that it makes no difference whether you meet people offline or online; interesting is interesting. I broadened my horizons a lot in high school using ICQ, and met so many people, from Australia to New York. It's a lot easier to overcome your shyness online.