I often used the CHAT function to talk to some user quickly rather than go through the whole friend request thing. And I never creeped anyone with questions like A/S/L or what are you wearing. I just asked them about what ever they needed help with (usually in relation to some question they had posted) and then got out of there after helping them.
While it is a bit inconvenient, it has definitely improved the overall experience for most members. Most of our users are valid members with honest questions, but there are spammers all over the web making it difficult for some of us to enjoy browsing on the site. By becoming friends first, you have the OPTION to chat with someone, rather than being open to anyone's messages and IM's. Thanks!