Steve Spalding asked on FriendFeed what the best thing was that the web had ever done for us. Since my internet-enabled empowerment actually predated the web, I must answer that pre-web net gave me nearly all I have today.
Through my email account and subscriptions to way too many listservs, I learned about MUDs. From a fellow MUDder (well, MOOer, actually), I learned about an awesome game called Magic: the Gathering. When my friend headed back home, I played against him on the MUD, and we would type out what cards we pulled and our actions. [Note: In those days, it was possible to know what every card did, because it was 1994, when the poorly-named Unlimited Edition could still be found in stores, the second expansion set, Antiquities, was just being released; I don't think I'd ever want to try playing someone via text these days!]. When my friend wasn't available, I found some folks on IRC, so I could play the card game with them. Eventually, I got tired of the speed of the game being limited by how fast we could type, so I found some people at a college hangout and started playing face-to-face.
Some of these Magic players would become friends. One of them -- I'll call him Ev -- owned an internet company; in addition to giving me an email account, he kindly helped me with my computer troubles. At some point, Ev became too busy to help me with my software and hardware installs, and he told me I was going to have to learn to fix my own machines. Oh, how hilarious I thought that sounded! Me, learn that complicated crap? Ev's a genius, though; he started me off with things like floppy drive installs, running Windows apps in OS/2 and hard drive replacements. It would be a couple of years before I was ready to take a machine down to the bare case, but with advice from my friends and fourteen pages of instructions from Tom's Hardware Guide, I did my first motherboard upgrade. That was in 1998. I was so nervous that I had to spend a bit of time huddled over a large, ceramic, water-filled bowl before heading out to pick up the parts. Fourteen hours later*, I flipped the switch and would have danced with relief (if it hadn't been 2am, and if I hadn't had neighbors below me). The darned thing actually worked!
Later that year, Ev said to me, "You know, people would pay you for what you know about computers." I laughed again. If I know this stuff, everyone knows it, right? I humored Ev and put my resume on Monster.com and had my first tech support contract job within weeks (Thank you, Aerotek!). The fourth contract turned into a permanent position, and I've been with that organization ever since. Thank God. I'm not sure I would have had as much fun being an Industrial Hygienist!
Ok, so you know how the net gave me my job and therefore my food, tech and home. What you don't know is that I met my husband and other friends through Ev and Magic. The husband found the dogs. I think that about covers it. Seems like I've told this story before, but I couldn't find it posted. I do apologize if I've been repetitious, but I wanted to answer Steve's question :).
*By 2003, the popped capacitor fiasco would have my motherboard replacement time shaved down to 8 minutes from the opening of an OptiPlex SX270's case to the closing of said case. I should have a video somewhere to prove it, but I was too embarrassed to post it, since I kinda fumbled a screw.