It must have been from Memepool - I was at college getting an engineering degree, spending a lot of time in front of a computer. It was natural to shift my procrastination/addiction from reading books to surfing the internet. I lurked for a long time, kept missing the free noon sign-ups, and finally got in as a $5 noob (after contacting mathowie for the first time when I registered a name but didn't have a credit card to pay for it).
(I have honestly grown up on Metafilter - when I first started lurking in 2002 or 2003, I was 19 and much younger than the stable of mid-twenties tech workers who really formed the core of Mefi. Now I'm 27 and older than mathowie was when he founded this site.)
A Meetup of Two
In 2006, I had just followed my boyfriend from California to Texas. Both of us were socially anxious introverts who had a hard time putting ourselves out there, so it was sort of daunting to move away from our safety nets. In the fall, we were heading up to Austin for the ACL Festival and I tentatively signed up for my very first meet-up (pre-IRL!).
Umm... only four people showed up. Nevertheless, I had a great time and discovered that getting drunk with strangers won't end with my decapitated head in their freezer. I have been to several other Austin and San Antonio meetups since then, and my kidneys are still firmly in place. Many times, strangers ARE just friends you haven't met.
I didn't meet my husband or best friend on Metafilter. I haven't developed a huge internet safety net to replace a real-life one. But I have discovered that there are real, good people on the other side of this monitor, with interesting lives and stories often deeper than their online personas. It has positively affected the way I deal with people both on Metafilter and other blogs. Mefi is one of the only sites where I have felt comfortable putting myself out there, both online and IRL.