Syp has a great post today basically about "parallel play" in GW2. Go read it. I'll wait.
I would draw the following analogy: Imagine, if you will, a city playground, or perhaps a fast food restaurant play place. There's a jungle gym, some swings, maybe some theme, like a sailing ship or an Old West stockade fort. For safety, it's all surrounded by sand or other soft ground cover. Children are at play on the fort. Some of them may be friends; most are strangers to each other. But many get into a rousing make-believe scenario: Pirates on the High Seas, maybe, or Cowboys and Indians. They're all shouting and having fun with each other. Even if some of the children are not directly playing with others, as long as there is no bullying, everyone can have a good time.
But at the end of the day, their parents take them home, and they may or may encounter each other again when and if they return to the park. There is not likely to be any exchange of contact information among kids who are not already friends. Was the massive group play not a social situation?
I'm frankly amazed at the dissenting opinions in the commentary of Syp's post. I guess it boils down to "you only see what you're looking for." I find that not worrying about competing for resource nodes or quest mobs is far more relaxing than having some ignorant or malicious person come up and "steal" the item I have spent time and effort to reach.
At the same time, I have no problem rezzing or being rezzed, an extra benefit since everyone can do it, no matter their profession. How is that not social?
Also, my group buffs (when I have some) benefit everyone in range, not just my party members. How is that not a social?
These player avatars are not mindless drones. They are people I can help or receive help from. How is that not social?
Who can legitimately say we’re not grouped just because our portraits aren't on the left side of each other’s screens? If we’re working toward the same goal, buffing and healing each other, reaping the benefits of a kill or a Dynamic Event, I’d say we’re grouped just as much as any PUG, and without the heartburn. If you don't speak, that is on you. If you see other players as no more than tools like the NPCs, that's on you. Most people I have "played alongside" through a tough area are quick with a "Thank you" or even a suggestion to take on another challenge nearby. With no need to make a formal group, we just go do it, then part with cheers. How is that not social?
I have my guild for social events and chit-chat. Much as Syp said, I don't need to have a deep philosophical conversation with someone as we kill spiders. GW2 is a very social game, precisely because I am never *forced* to group with anyone for other than social reasons.