I am not saying those people didn't exist, but it was accepted by the majority that it was the wrong way to play, and those people were duly ridiculed for doing so. Not to mention, I vividly remember Positron going on a rampage when people started using AE to powerlevel and farm, doling out nerfs and bans like a goddam vengeful deity. The folks at Paragon were very disappointed to see a tool for creativity used as a shortcut.
Yeah, powerlevelers and farmers existed, in a minority, and as a sort of grimy underbelly that we mostly ignored and laughed at. It was not THIS bad. Every other character I see is a damned Spines/Fire now.
The biggest problem was not with people skipping content, but people skipping learning how to play. BAEbies would join and get jumped straight to 50, and then start joining PUGs without knowing how to activate their own mez protection or run toggles. That's a problem when you organize a Pick Up master run of any TF and three members of your team simply don't understand the characters they are playing.