Social anxiety is not uncommon. Many people struggle with this issue. It is important that your anxiety levels match a given situation. In your case, your social anxiety levels are higher than they should be and thus it is creating a problem.
My assessment of your situation is that you are avoiding dealing with your social anxiety. As you mentioned, you spend a lot of time on the Internet. You have many more interactions on the Internet than you do in person. The Internet is a way to escape social interactions but it is a poor substitute. The Internet helps, but it does not sufficiently fulfill your need for social interaction. One appropriate way to use the Internet would be to identify local people to meet and interact with in person.
You mentioned that you do not want to join in-person activities because of your shyness. You mentioned that it would be inauthentic of you to join a group that that you did not truly believe in. You do not have to join groups or clubs of that kind. You could join groups or clubs that you are interested in. You could volunteer for causes that you do care about.
It is easier not to deal with this issue and ignore your shyness but that will only make your anxiety increase. I would encourage you to force yourself into social situations and not to avoid interaction with others.
You understand that you are shy and have difficulty interacting with others. Now that you are aware of this ongoing problem you should seek in-person counseling. It is important that you get the support of a therapist who can teach you how to deal with your social anxiety and who can help you to develop healthy social interaction skills. I would advise against seeking online help including Internet counseling or joining Internet support groups. They can serve as an adjunct to face-to-face counseling but they would not decrease your problems with shyness and social interaction. If you’re interested in therapy, click the ‘find help’ tab at the top of this page to locate a therapist in your community. Please take care. Good luck.
This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on October 6, 2010.