I switched my home machines to Debian in 2001 mainly because I found building from upstream so
difficult. I'm happy that I can build from source, but installing a Debian package meant that
the software worked (was tested and supported) and was easily managed within my system. In
2001 software for Linux often didn't "just work". Much of my time was spent chasing
dependencies (development libraries or binary dependencies) and once I was able to compile
something I'd generally leave it alone.
My experience has been that distros have made life better for users by packaging software.
Logically this seems counterintuitive as you do have a "middleman" but prior to the Debian
software model you had chaos. "Pigs playing in mud" wasn't a fun or effective use of my time.