It's pretty easy to call this place comfortable. You can come and go as you please, as someone else said, there isn't any expectations set on you when you come here. Nothing is asked of you... You can read, you can post, and most importantly, you can walk away whenever you like.
I ask you now Steve -- is the real world any different from that? Granted, when we work we tend to have schedules to adhere to... However in social settings we can come and go as we please. We can listen, we can talk, and if we like, we can walk away whenever we like.
If MS.org is your 'comfort zone'... Why not try to think of social situations as being included in the 'comfort zone'. Treat them with the same respect for the site... That you can come, go, talk, listen, or walk away at will.
A favourite quote of mine which really puts things into perspective is as follows:
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.
Those who judge you, steve, don't matter! Those who matter, won't judge you... You have a lot to offer the world but you keep beating yourself up with these fears. Your toughest critic is yourself -- Don't you think you've punished and criticized yourself enough for this lifetime?
Wishing you all the best my Alta friend...