This is especially true in urban environments. As if coffee is just an excuse for people to gather in closed spaces and enjoy one another's presence while engaged in our own private virtual worlds and electronic devices. That said, it's no revelation that we are social animals and we like being around other people even if we don't directly communicate or socialize with them. Move theaters are also a good example.
By hanging out at coffee shops we experience the feeling of being part of a social network or a group without any commitments, or having to invest time and attention to socialize with others. In a way we enjoy being alone together.
It's easy to observe that in our success focused society we are investing more and more time in ourselves and have less time to spend with others. Thanks to Coffee Shops, we can still work on our resumes, online degrees, blogs and business ideas while feeling like we are part of a close social network of coffee drinkers, i.e. friends.
As Billy Joel said, "They are sharing a drink, they call loneliness but it's better than drinking alone".
-Written from a coffee shop while drinking coffee and managing to avoid any social contact while be surrounded by people