Written by Lori Thiessen

Are you feeling the urge to be part of the tribe but there are too many electronic fences (e.g. Blackberrys, laptops, Blue-tooths, etc.) keeping you out?

Part of the reason why people want to work out of their local coffee shop rather than in their home office is because they get lonely. We are social animals after all and we want to be part of a pack. We may feel that we are on some level connecting with others when we work out of our local coffee shop, but really we’re just sitting beside each other texting someone in another city, state or country.

The Economist ‘s April 12 edition, an article entitled “The New Oases”, touches on this issue:

James Katz at Rutgers fears that cyber-nomads are “hollowing them out”. …These places are “physically inhabited but psychologically evacuated”, says Mr Katz, which leaves people feeling “more isolated than they would be if the cafe were merely empty”. That is because the “physical presence of other human beings is psychologically and neurologically arousing” but now produces no reward. Quite simply, he says, we have not evolved biologically to be happy in these situations.

Simply going to the coffee shop to sit with others, physically and psychically isolated by technology only intensifies our longing for positive social connection. It’s like standing outside a house party and enjoying the happy party sounds going on but feeling like Charlie Brown – always left out. Good Grief!

I was having coffee with a friend at the Waves Coffee Shop on Commercial Drive. We noticed that it was as quiet as a library. The place was nearly packed but you could have heard a pin drop. Everybody was working away on their laptops and white earphone wires trickled down almost every cheek. It made my friend and I feel very uncomfortable and before long we left. Monasteries were rowdier than this joint. There was no possibility of momentary socializing here, even between two people who were already good friends.

Sometimes it is great to just “be” around people, to feel a part of something even if you’re not. But eventually we all want to be with people, to share ideas, stories, and information. Friendships can develop between java commuters, but it takes time. A friend of mine had the following sign up on her desk, ‘There are no short cuts to long term relationships’. So stick to maybe one or two coffee shops as your regular hang out and who knows in a few months time you may have a new pal or two.

Q: What are some strategies you would suggest for developing coffee shop co-working friends?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!